It was another dream performance for RSL Sunday night.
The best action from the first leg of the MLS Cup playoffs conference final was highlighted by Real Salt Lake, but what about the worst?
But all that pales in comparison to one forgettable Saturday afternoon.
Read below to find out why.
Best: Real Salt Lake Cruise to Victory
Real Salt Lake defeated the Portland Timbers 4-2 Sunday night. For the third time this season, the Claret and Cobalt stood victorious after an aesthetic battle with their Northwest rivals. The club is now just 90 minutes from returning to the MLS Cup final.
According to the club's official website, head coach Jason Kreis attributes the victory to 75 minutes of consistent play:
Bookends, right? The beginning wasn’t good, the end wasn’t good, but the 75 minutes in-between were really good. I credit [Will Johnson] for that fantastic goal. We don’t get goals scored on us like that too often. Our response to that first goal was terrific. Our guys just got better and better as the game wore on and we got back to the things that we do well. I think that one thing is clear, and I think 100 percent certain, that we still have 90 minutes of work to do if we’re going to advance.
The beginning wasn't "good." The end was even worse.
Former RSL midfielder Will Johnson opened the affair for Portland in the 14th minute. The 26-year-old captain connected on a screaming free-kick to silence the 17,333 in attendance. After piling on a 4-1 lead, the crowd stood silent once more after Frederic Piquionne finished a scorching header in stoppage time.
The 4-2 scoreline doesn't bode well for the Timbers, but it's far more surmountable than a three-goal deficit.
The story here, however, is the 75 minutes in between that reflected a deliciously executed performance form RSL.
The club amassed 83 passes in the attacking third of the pitch. Roughly 38 percent of their crosses connected on the night. Compare that to the 14.3 percent the Timbers delivered. Portland was also outshot 18-7 by the time the final whistle blew.
Two weeks separate RSL from a spot in the MLS Cup final, but two weeks is also plenty of time for Timbers head coach Caleb Porter to prepare for a comeback. Especially at home.
This one is far from over.
Worst: The Eastern Conference Bedtime Story
Have you awoken from your slumber yet?
The Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City didn't just play to a scoreless draw on Saturday...they lulled national audiences to sleep in the process. Ninety minutes of competitive football finished in the most unappealing fashion possible.
According to Darrell Lovell on MLS' official website, even Houston defender Bobby Boswell was well aware that the first leg wouldn't be for the faint of heart:
We knew it was going to be an ugly game, and it was. They are such a good possession team and we kind of went in and bullied them around and now they've just decided to meet us head on and just say "hey, we're going to kick you and screw the possession." You've just got to meet them head on.
But just how "ugly" was this first leg of the Eastern Conference final?
Well, Houston was about as accurate as Tim Tebow on a football Sunday for starters. The Dynamo accurately delivered their 341 passes 65 percent of the time. SKC didn't fare any better. The club connected on 322 passes with a 63 percent accuracy.
Twenty-five combined attempts were taken. Twenty-three fouls were given.
Alexi Lalas was not impressed:
But as Steve Brisendine points out on MLS' official website, SKC head coach Peter Vermes was:
I thought we did one aspect of what we wanted to do, which is that we didn't want to give up any goals here. I thought that was an important aspect of the game tonight. It wasn't an easy game to play in, and we got a result. Now, it doesn't mean anything. Now, it's just a final at home.
Sporting failed to escape BBVA Compass Stadium last year with a favorable result. The club hemorrhaged one too many goals in the first leg of the of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals. The deficit proved to be insurmountable. SKC would be eliminated 2-1 on aggregate.
They won't have a mountain to climb after Saturday's scoreless draw.
But they will have a dedicated viewership to rouse.
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