Real Salt Lake (14-8-11, 53 points) GK Nick Rimando is the all-time MLS leader in shutouts and he showed just how he earned more clean sheets than any goalkeeper in league history on Friday. Rimando finished with six saves and commanded the RSL defense en route to a 0-0 draw with the Portland Timbers (11-9-13, 46 points) in front of a crowd of 20,814 at Providence Park.
Rimando’s sixth shutout of the season and 114th in his career kept RSL two points ahead of FC Dallas in the Western Conference standings after the keeper returned from a 1-1 draw on Tuesday with the U.S. National Team in a friendly against Honduras.
In the first 10 minutes of the match, RSL MF Luis Gil asserted himself in the match with two shots from the edge of the 18-yard box. Starting in place of MF Luke Mulholland, Gil got the first threatening chance in the third minute, ripping a shot from outside the box that took a deflection on its way toward goal, putting it wide of the far post for a corner kick.
In the 10th minute, Gil took another shot from outside the box, but missed high as RSL continued to press the homestanding Timbers early in the match.
In the 18th minute, Rimando sprung off his line to thwart the Portland counter-attack. Timbers MF Diego Chara pushed up the right side and crossed the ball toward the penalty spot. Rimando slid out to knock the ball clear, but it spilled to the left side for MF Rodney Wallace. However, Rimando again sprung to action, smothering Wallace’s shot to keep the match scoreless.
RSL nearly nabbed the lead in the 39th minute when DF Tony Beltran sprayed a cross into the box from the right side. RSL FW Robbie Findley rose for a header, but Portland GK Donovan Ricketts got his hand to it for the save and FW Sebastian Jaime couldn’t get to the rebound before it was cleared from the goalmouth.
Before the halftime whistle, Portland would put the ball into the Salt Lake box, but couldn’t convert. In the 44th minute, MF Diego Valeri sent a corner kick into traffic in front of Rimando’s net and, after it bounced around in front of the net, fell back to Valeri on the right side and the Argentine midfielder missed high with his final effort and with that the two sides went into halftime knotted in a scoreless deadlock.
The second half started much like the first, with Gil taking an early shot from distance to test Ricketts, but Ricketts made the stop on his 50th-minute shot.
Valeri had a pair of opportunities miss just wide early in the second half in the other direction. His first came on a ball up the right side that he collected at a low angle before shooting just high and beyond the far post. Then, in the 60th minute, Valeri blasted a shot that just missed wide of the near post on the right side.
Moments later, Rimando thwarted a flurry from Portland in the box.
Portland MF Darlington Nagbe got the first shot away in the 61st-minute flood, taking a left-footed shot in the middle of the box that Rimando speared down. Wallace and FW Fanendo Adi both had cracks at rebounds that were blocked, the latter seeing RSL DF Chris Wingert knock it away for a corner kick, narrowly avoiding falling behind to the Timbers.
In the 66th minute, it wasn’t Rimando, but Gil coming up big in front of net. Portland DF Norberto Paparatto got his head to a corner kick and nodded it toward the near post, but Gil was on the post and made the clearance to keep Portland off the board.
In the 75th minute, a deflected ball left Nagbe 1v1 with Rimando up the left side. Rimando initially charged the loose ball, but thought better of it and retreated to his net, leaving Wingert enough time for a sliding stop.
Rimando would stop Paparatto again on a 77th minute header, diving to his left to parry the ball away for an RSL clearance.
Portland would continue to throw men forward over the final minutes of the match, but Rimando kept the Timbers off the scoreboard and the Real Salt Lake defense did its part to see out the shutout.
RSL now readies for its final match of the regular season on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium against Chivas USA. Kickoff for the regular season finale is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT and will have a local broadcast on CW 30, ESPN 700 AM and 102.3 La Gran D FM.