Thrilling proceedings saw Real Salt Lake just barely keep its hold on first place with a stoppage-time goal from substitute Cole Grossman.With a trio of starters missing and its tenuous hold on first place in the Western Conference on the line, 10-man Real Salt Lake managed to escape Jeld-Wen Field with some late heroics.
Substitute Cole Grossman's stoppage-time goal salvaged a thrilling 3-3 draw for RSL against the Portland Timbers, in a rematch of the recent U.S. Open Cup semifinal bout won by RSL.
RSL was without starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando (illness), forward Alvaro Saborio (calf) and midfielder and captain Kyle Beckerman (suspension) for the match, and the absences showed as Portland took the early advantage.
In the 24th minute. Diego Valeri's curling free kick was headed in by Rodney Wallace, who beat rooted backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella in front of the raucous Timbers Army to open the scoring.
RSL defender Nat Borchers leveled the scoreline on 38 minutes, though, as Javier Morales chased down a poorly cleared free kick and stole the ball from Valeri in the right corner. His cross found Yordany Alvarez, and although the Cuban midfielder's header was saved by Donovan Ricketts, Borchers was sitting in perfect position to tap the ball home off the rebound.
Morales was dragged down in the box by Portland center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste a few minutes later, drawing a penalty. The RSL playmaker stepped up and converted his effort to put the visiting side up 2-1 just before halftime.
Portland had its turn from the spot in the 57th minute, when Brandon McDonald swiped a bouncing ball with his elbow. Valeri finished from the spot to level the score at 2-2.
RSL lost Alvarez to a red card in the 79th minute when he was sent off for a high, reckless challenge on Diego Chara, and the Timbers made the advantage count when sub Kalif Alhassan scored in the 86th minute. Nat Borchers touched away a cross into but got tangled up with Jose Antonio Valencia on the ground, allowing an unmarked Alhassan to shoot in the corner and seemingly seal three points and a tie atop the Western Conference.
The dramatics extended into stoppage time, though, when Grossman collected a rebound inside the box and slotted home to make it 3-3 in the 94th minute to force the draw and keep RSL in sole possession of first place in the West and in the race for the MLS Supporters' Shield.
The two sides play again in eight days, with a rematch slated for Rio Tinto Stadium.