SANDY — Javier Morales and Fabian Espindola stepped up in Alvaro Saborio’s absence.
Morales and Espindola both scored in the first half to lead Salt Lake to a 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We got big time plays from a couple of big time players there on the attacking end,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said.
Saborio, second in the MLS with 14 goals, missed the game due a shoulder injury suffered against Tauro FC earlier in the week. He is expected to be sidelined at least two to four weeks.
Real Salt Lake (15-11-4) became the second club in MLS history to get at least 15 wins in three straight seasons and secured a spot in the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
Bright Dike scored in the 61st minute for the Timbers (7-15-8), who remained winless on the road. Portland only has two more chances — with games remaining against Seattle and Vancouver — to end the futility.
“The reality of it is we don’t want to be one of those teams that goes down in the record book without a win on the road during the course of a year,” Portland midfielder Jack Jewsbury said.
Espindola put Salt Lake on the board in the 14th minute, taking a free kick just outside the penalty area and slicing a left footer past the Timbers’ defensive wall.
Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando prevented Portland from tying it up in the 21st as Jewsbury used a corner kick to send a perfect cross to Rodney Wallace in the center of the box. Wallace sent a header forward and Rimando denied him in the center of the goal.
Morales made it 2-0 in the 36th on another free kick as he fired the ball over the wall and out of reach of the outstretched hand of Timbers goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
“We just got more numbers involved tonight,” Kreis said. “There was more options for players, when they were on the ball, to find passes. We created a lot of very good chances just passing and moving and being dynamic in the attacking third of the field.”
Rimando prevented a potential tying goal off a free kick in the 81st minute as he leaped up to swat away a ball sent in by Franck Songo’o.
Salt Lake suffered from a letdown in energy on defense during the second half and Rimando felt like the team didn’t do enough to put the game out of reach when it had a chance.
“We could have scored five or six goals tonight,” Rimando said. “We got to put our opportunities away, especially at home and especially against teams that are fighting for their jobs. It’s only going to get harder and if we don’t put our chances away, other teams will.”
• SPORTING KC 0, IMPACT 0 (TIE): At Montreal, Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched away Matteo Ferrari’s header in added time as Montreal struggled to a 0-0 draw Saturday to keep the Impact in the MLS playoff hunt.
Montreal picked up its first point in three games since ending its team-record five-game winning streak.
Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins made a point-blank stop on Kei Kamara 14 minutes into the game.
Justin Mapp had the Impact’s best opportunity in the first half, but his shot went wide of the left post.
Sporting KC midfielder Jacob Peterson was on the bench after coming out of the game when he was shown a red card by referee Jorge Gonzalez in the 90th minute. Arnaud and Impact midfielder Collen Warner were shown yellow cards.
• REVOLUTION 1, RED BULLS 1: At Foxborough, Mass., Darrius Barnes scored his first career goal five minutes into stoppage time to give New England the draw against New York.
The Revolution (7-15-8) have just one win in 13 matches (1-8-4) since beating New York 2-0 on July 8. Barnes’ tying goal came shortly after Loel Lindpere put the Red Bulls (14-8-8) ahead in the first minute of stoppage time.
New York defender Conor Lade was ejected after he picked up his second yellow card in the 74th minute, and left the Red Bulls short-handed for the final 16 minutes.
• FIRE 2, CREW 1: At Bridgeview, Ill., Chris Rolfe scored two goals in a little more than 3 minutes in the first half to lead Chicago past Columbus.
Chicago (16-8-5) won its fourth straight and seventh in the last eight to move two points behind first-place Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference.
Jairo Arrieta took advantage of a miscue by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to score in the 15th minute for Columbus (13-11-6).