Photo by Susan Ragan/USA TODAY Sports
By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore. — In a season that saw so many high scoring slugfests at Providence Park, it was the goalkeepers who took center stage Friday night in Portland. Donovan Ricketts and Nick Rimando stole the show as Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers battled to a scoreless draw in Portland’s home season finale.
Ricketts, a two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, and Nick Rimando, a four-time MLS all-star, both kept their teams in the match with outstanding saves. Ricketts denied Robbie Findlay with a sprawling one armed denial late in the first half.
Not to be outdone, Rimando finished the night with six saves, none better than his out-of-nowhere diving stop to deny Darlington Nagbe in the second half. Despite attempting 23 shots, 19 of which were inside the 18-yard box, Portland was unable to find a way to unlock Rimando.
“When (Rimando) does retire, and hopefully it’s soon, he’s going to go down as one of the best goalkeepers in the history of this league,” Caleb Porter said. “He came up big for them and that’s probably the difference on the day.”
The US International also had some help in the second half when Luis Gil denied the Timbers when he stopped a Norberto Paparatto header that appeared to be headed into the goal.
“Rimando was making some unbelievable saves and some of the chances were just downright unlucky,” Timbers midfielder Ben Zemanski said.
The end of the match saw the Timbers bench and coach Caleb Porter livid over a no-call in the RSL penalty area where it appeared the ball hit Nat Borchers in the arm. But no call came and Portland was stuck with a tie to end their home season.
“I can’t fault our guys for anything, I thought they played their hearts,” Porter said. “I’m proud of their effort.”
Portland was shutout for the first time since July 13 and for just the fifth time all season. The shutout was Rimando’s 114th of his career, which is the most in MLS history.
With the draw, the Timbers move into a tie with Vancouver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. However, the Whitecaps have a game in hand and will take on the struggling San Jose Earthquakes Saturday where they could go three points up with one match to play.
“We’re still alive and this team doesn’t die easy. We got our backs up against the wall, yet again, and hopefully we get a little luck and Vancouver loses a game,” Zemanski said. “We have enough momentum and confidence in our play right now where we can go on the road to Dallas and get three points.”
For only the second time in eight matches, Gil was in the starting lineup, taking the place of Luke Mulholland, who was being rested by coach Jeff Cassar. Gil almost gave RSL the lead early in the match, but his fourth minute deflected shot flew just wide of the net.
With the point, Real Salt Lake now finds itself two points ahead of FC Dallas for third place in the West. Dallas will take on Colorado Saturday with the chance to move a point clear of RSL.
Before Portland travels to Texas for its season finale, they will head to Central America to take on CD Olimpia of Honduras in the final match of group play in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday. A win or draw will be enough to advance Portland to the knockout stage, while a loss could also be enough depending on the score.
“We need to shift gears and focus our attention on the Champions League,” Porter said.
Here are the match highlights: