Sandy, UT (SportsNetwork.com) - Real Salt Lake grabbed firm control of its Western Conference Championship tie on Sunday after easing to a 4-2 first-leg victory over the Portland Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Having vanquished the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy in the semifinal round, the hosts struggled to get into the game early on and paid the price just 14 minutes in.
Defender Chris Wingert was whistled for a foul on Portland's Diego Valeri, setting up a free kick on the right side of the pitch from about 25 yards out.
Timbers captain Will Johnson stepped up and blasted his strike over the wall and down into the bottom left corner of the net, leaving RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando with little chance for a save.
After the goal, RSL quickly began asserting some pressure in the final third of the field and found an equalizer in the 35th minute when Chris Schuler got his head on a Javier Morales corner kick and powered it home for his second goal of the postseason.
Six minutes later the home side grabbed control of the game when speedy forward Robbie Findley deftly took the ball away from Portland defender Mamadou Danso in the final third and slipped it past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for the 2-1 halftime lead.
After the break, Real Salt Lake made it a 3-1 game in the 48th minute when they hit on the counter-attack. Findley started the move with a nice ball down the right flank to Morales, who sent a low cross to Devon Sandoval. Sandoval, in the starting 11 for an injured Alvaro Saborio, fired it home in a crowded penalty area.
RSL then made it 4-1 eight minutes from time as substitute Joao Plata swung a corner kick into the penalty area where Morales got his head on it, beating Ricketts to the near post.
Portland grabbed a second goal deep in stoppage time as Jack Jewsbury sent a fantastic cross into the box where Frederic Piquionne powered a header into the top right corner.
RSL held on to claim the victory, but the Timbers have a lifeline as the series heads to Jeld-Wen Field for the second leg on Nov. 24.