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Jeff Allred, Deseret News
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Real Salt Lake Loses To Portland Without Beckerman, Rimando

Jeff Allred, Deseret News

SANDY, Utah – Playing without their longtime leaders in midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake fell at home with a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers.

The loss was the second in a row for RSL, which also lost last week to the LA Galaxy in a 2-1 decision.

Onuoha Anchors Defense

Early on, the action was a bit sluggish. While neither team was able to get much going, RSL’s back four of defenders, led by Nedum Onuoha looked soild.

Onuoha, of course, was in the news last week after on-field and off-field incidents involving him and LA Galaxy superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic made national and even international headlines.

A longtime star with Manchester City, Onuoha has proven to be a valuable pickup for RSL, showing great leadership and toughness, even when up against talent like Ibrahimovic. Against Portland, he was also sharp.

Besler Fills In Nicely For Beckerman

Playing in the space in the center usually occupied by Beckerman, Nick Besler was a strong replacement. His defense-first style mirrored Beckerman’s style of play, which allowed the rest of the team to resume business as usual.

As expected however, Beckerman’s leadership was missed. While he hasn’t announced any plans to retire soon, his ability to motivate his teammates will be hard to replace for the long term.

Missed Chances For RSL

About midway through the first half, Portland was called for a handball in RSL’s attacking box, giving the home team a chance at a penalty kick for the first goal of the game.

Unfortunately for RSL, Albert Rusnak’s kick was denied and Portland took advantage of the blown opportunity. On the counter attack, the Timbers came down the field and scored on a rebound by Sebastian Blanco to take a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute.

RSL had plenty of chances to tie the game in the second half.

First, striker Sam Johnson, who had been on fire since being inserted into the starting lineup had a wicked run at the goal, but was ultimately smothered by Portland’s defenders and goalkeeper.

Minutes later, Jefferson Savarino deftly handled a long pass from goalkeeper Andrew Putna and fired a strong shot on goal that had to be handled on a diving save by Portland’s Steve Clark.

Finally, RSL broke through with a nice poke by Johnson to knot it up at 1-1 in the 63rd minute. It was Johnson’s third goal in five starts. Clearly RSL has found what it has been looking for in a striker in Johnson.

Portland Capitalizes

Johnson’s goal got the crowd back into it, but they were silenced shortly thereafter when Portland’s Diego Valeri got a ball past Putna after receiving a blocked shot by Blanco.

While both goals by Portland were well hit balls, Putna’s performance left something to be desired for. As a whole, the RSL defending unit, apart from Onuoha, did not give their best effort at times and Portland took advantage of it.

RSL’s Bofo Saucedo came into the game late and provided plenty of energy, as he usually does, but it wasn’t enough as Portland held on for the win.

It was a game that RSL is going to regret leaving without a point as the team dominated the action at times, but was unable to capitalize at key moments.

It was also a real good look at what life might look like for RSL once their two stars, Beckerman and Rimando, are both gone. While the team ended up with a loss on Saturday, the play of Johnson, Savarino and Onuoha was quite encouraging for the team’s future outlook.

Next Up

RSL will next hit the road to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Real Salt Lake matches can be streamed live on or on the KSL TV app.