Real Salt Lake will have an opportunity to play for their first ever U.S. Open Cup thanks to goals by Alvaro Saborio and Joao Plata, who helped them down the Portland Timbers, 2-1, on Wednesday night. Diego Valeri scored in the last minute of regular time to create a tense ending, but RSL were able to hold on for the victory.
The hosts looked more dangerous to start the match and took just seven minutes to get on the board. After Khari Stephenson had a shot blocked out for a corner by Donovan Ricketts, RSL found their opening goal shortly following the ensuing set piece. Kyle Beckerman set up the goal with a great ball to the back post, where Saborio was waiting to power a header off the far post and into the net.
RSL dodged a bit of a bullet in the 17th minute when a header by Rodney Wallace was blocked into the side netting by questionable means. Wallace thought a Salt Lake defender handled his shot, but the referee thought otherwise and gave a corner.
Portland's best chance of the first half came in the 40th minute through Will Johnson, but they were denied by Nick Rimando, who made the best save of the night on Johnson's effort from 12 yards out. Darlington Nagbe started the move with an excellent through ball for Andrew John-Baptiste, who cut back for Johnson to shoot, but he couldn't beat the RSL keeper. The Timbers went close again in the 45th minute when Valeri found Johnson with a cross, but the Portland midfielder put his header off the post.
The Timbers' hopes of mounting a comeback -- and potentially their hopes of contending for a Supporters' Shield -- took a massive hit in the 63rd minute when they had to sub out Johnson due to injury. From then on, after Kalif Alhassan and Jose Valencia came on for Will and Ryan Johnson, the Timbers' ability to control the game in midfield was noticeablycompromised.
Plata, who came on for Robbie Findley after an hour of play, solidified his team's lead and scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 80th minute. Saborio will get credit for the assist, but the goal was all Plata, who beat Ricketts with a thunderous low strike to the far post from 25 yards.
In the 90th minute, Valeri got the Timbers back into the game with a headed goal, following up on a rebound after Rimando saved his initial shot, but his team were unable to score again and force extra time.