It starting to feel like Jeld-Wen Field in Portland is going to be an extremely difficult place for MLS clubs to play this season. It's only halftime and they are missing some starters, but Real Salt Lake have looked like anything but their typical dominate selves.
After a quiet opening 20 minutes, Portland got on the board as Kalif Alhassan got alone on the left wing thanks to a quick free kick and found Kenny Cooper in front of Nick Rimando's goal. Cooper deftly redirected the cross with his foot and put the Timbers in the lead.
Within a minute the entire Timbers Army end of the stadium was filled with smoke and Timber Joey's chainsaw was fired up and sawing another piece off the giant log behind the goal.
The goal (and/or the smoke and chainsaw) did seem to wake-up Jason Kreis' club and they began to be more efficient in possession and create some offensive opportunities. A veritable siege of the Timbers goals culminated in the 32nd minute when Salt Lake appeared to level the match but referee Jair Marrufo came charging in and waived off the goal for a foul. It was a good call as Chris Schuler had pushed Jack Jewsbury to the ground, helping to create space for Alvaro Soborio to score the goal that would not stand.
Two great chances late for Portland. Jeremy Hall chipped a fantastic ball that found Jorge Perlaza who couldn't direct his header on net and it went across the face of goal and on the wrong side of the far post. Just a minute later in stoppage time, Alhassan took a shot from 25-yards out that looked wide at first, but curled late and was kept out by a tremendous diving save from Rimando. Two excellent chances to give Portland some confidence going in to the locker room.
It was an excellent first half for the Timbers who controlled the game for the most part. More importantly, for least for the first 45 minutes, the Timbers defense, which has struggled at times this season, looked more confident and organized. We'll have to see how they hold up to the inevitable push for the tying goal from RSL in the second half.