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Drilling down on: at Portland 2, Real Salt Lake 3

Real Salt Lake v Portland Timbers

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 31: Kyle Beckerman #5 of Real Salt Lake kicks the winning goal in stoppage time against the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field on March 31, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

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Man of the match: With apologies to Kyle Beckerman (and his game-winning goal, right), Darlington Nagbe gets this honor, even in a losing effort. Two highlight reel goals had Portland in position to win as the teams entered the closing minutes. Root Sports’ commentators wondered if a star had been born. It’s hard to argue otherwise.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Coaches scouting the Timbers will take note of Jamison Olave on Nagbe’s two goals. On the first, he was pulled away Nagbe by a Jorge Perlaza run. On the second, he didn’t close down Nagbe, instead choosing to wait for the Timbers attacker to settle a ball that never fully came down. Going forward, defenders should be advised to prioritize closing down Nagbe, even if it means risking getting beaten by Nagbe’s (or somebody else’s) speed.

  • RSL will get a lot of well-deserved credit for their comeback, but the result was consistent with the attitude they carried throughout the match. Real Salt Lake looked more confident than most teams we saw go to Jeld-Wen last year. While it forces you to wonder whether Portland’s severe home field advantage was a one-year novelty, it bears remembering: This was the first match this year that both Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman started.

  • Speaking of Javier Morales, one of these two men is the all-star Real Salt Lake midfielder, and the other is U.S. men’s national team icon, U.S. Youth Soccer Technical Director Claudio Reyna:
    Potentially relevant: I’ve never seen these two people in the same place at the same time.

  • John Spencer is going to be especially frustrated by this loss (beyond the frustration a coach feels after losing a 2-1 lead in the last minutes). He brought James Marcelin in for Diego Chara with 15 minutes left, giving his defense a two-man shield (Marcelin and Jack Jewsbury); however, both late goals came through the middle, in front of the defense - the exact place Spencer had tied to shore up. You can get it right, John, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to come off as you imagined.