Real Salt Lake Cinderella playoff race ends with Rose City shutout

Portland Timbers midfielder Marvin Loria (44) and Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnák (11) compete for the ball in the first half of the MLS Western Conference Final on Saturday 4th December 2021, in Portland, Oregon (Amanda Loman, Associate Press)

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SALT LAKE CITY – In an incredible race to the Western Conference Final as the highly unlikely No.7 seed, Real Salt Lake have made a habit of scoring goals late and even coming back later.

In Saturday’s final, Portland led the way.

Felipe Mora and Santiago Moreno scored one goal in each half as the Timbers ended Salt Lake’s unlikely MLS Cup playoff run with a 2-0 shutout at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.

Steve Clark made three saves to earn a clean sheet for the Timbers, who have advanced to the MLS Cup Final for the second time in four years.

Cinderella’s run from Real Salt Lake to the conference final – one that included first-round progress without a single shot for the first time in league history, and a late road goal against a rival – being dominated 14-7 and held with three shots on target in the Pink City.

Mora took advantage of RSL’s open roster in the opening minutes to find space inside the box and score the opening goal less than five minutes into the game to give the team a 1-0 lead. Timbers. The 28-year-old Chilean snapped a missed clearance down the back line and sent a deft touch inside the far post to give the hosts early control.

Santiago Moreno nearly doubled the advantage in the 30th minute, but his attempt on a David Ochoa reverse save went high over the crossbar. Just as quickly, Aaron Herrera found Damir Kreilach on the edge of the six-yard penalty box before Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark made the reflex save to keep the Timbers in place in the 33rd minute.

The two teams combined for 10 shots, four shots on target and four corners in an end-to-end first half and an all-out battle for a place in the MLS Cup final. But Ochoa made two saves to keep Salt Lake within striking distance at the break.

Moreno finally doubled the advantage in the 60th minute, moments after Mora was substituted, hitting a ball from far inside his left boot, glancing at the back of a tense Ochoa for Moreno’s first career playoff goal that virtually secured the Timbers’ move to the MLS Cup Final.

Herrera was sent off with a second yellow card in the 80th minute, forcing RSL to play the final 10 minutes of the settlement with just 10 men. Diego Valeri, the former star-studded Argentine in his ninth season in Portland, added to the finish as a late substitute.

This story will be updated.

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