The rearguard was huge for Portland in their win over RSL.
The side earned its first ever clean sheet in a difficult match against Salt Lake's powerful offense.
“I’d probably say it’s the toughest (win), that’s for sure,” coach John Spencer said. “They pinned us back — and I felt we showed a lot of character after last week (a 3-0 loss to LA).”
The Timbers took a 1-0 lead and never looked back, maintaining the lead, despite having a defense that was maligned all week.
“I think when they started piling on the pressure we got behind the ball and hung on a little bit,” Spencer said. “I think tonight we did a really professional job, we got one-nil up and managed the game.”
Coming into the match, the Timbers defense had surrendered 13 goals in 6 matches. The result was criticism from around the country. Still, the side played well together and protected their home field.
“We were organized and we believed that no matter what we were going to fight until the end,” goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. “If a goal came, it came, but we weren’t going to give up. We’re going to fight and we’re not going to give in.”
That goal never came, in spite of Salt Lake's powerful attack.
“They’re a very dangerous team in the attack. They whip in some good balls from the sides,” Perkins said. “I think every chance they had was dangerous really, but I give credit to the guys in front of me, they dealt with it and made it easy for me.”
Instead, the expansion side won a hard-fought victory against a frustrated Salt Lake side reeling from a similar 1-0 heart-breaker Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions League Final.
“We wanted to keep a clean sheet tonight and we knew if we did that, we’d give ourselves a chance,” midfielder Jack Jewsbury said. “That’s a tough thing to do against a good Salt Lake side.”
The Timbers now face a quick turnaround as the side will play Tuesday against the San Jose Earthquakes in US Open Cup play and then host the Philadelphia Union on Friday.
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