- Associated Press - Saturday, October 18, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Facing a team with a lot more on the line, Nick Rimando may have just decided the Western Conference playoff picture.

Rimando had seven saves for his sixth shutout of the season to lead Real Salt Lake in a 0-0 draw with the Portland Timbers on Friday night.

Portland’s Donovan Ricketts made three saves to also get his sixth shutout.

Salt Lake (14-8-11) moved two points ahead of FC Dallas for third place in the Western Conference. The fourth place team will face a play-in game with the fifth place team to start the playoffs.

“It was definitely a playoff atmosphere,” Real Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar said. “We’re preparing for the playoffs. We went to a very difficult place to play and played extremely well.”

The Timbers (11-9-13) pulled into a tie with Vancouver for that fifth and final playoff spot in the West, but that may prove to be short-lived. Portland has one game remaining, away at Sporting Kansas City, while the Whitecaps have two, both against teams already eliminated from playoff contention. Vancouver travels to San Jose on Saturday night, before closing its regular season at home against Colorado.

“I can’t fault our guys for anything. I thought they played their hearts out and I’m proud of their effort. We went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. “It would have been much better to get three points, but it does make that last game relevant.”

Playing in driving rain for most of the match, the first half was pretty even, with Real Salt Lake having the best opportunity. Ricketts made a fine save in the 39th minute, getting down quickly to push away a header by Robbie Findley.

Spurred on by a 68th-consecutive sellout of 20,814 fans, Portland took it to Real Salt Lake in the second half. Despite the visitors having a slight advantage in time of possession, the Timbers took 18 shots at goal, getting five on target. Unfortunately for the home team, Rimando made a number of highlight saves.

In the 61st minute, Rimando stopped a shot by Diego Valeri and dove to block the rebound attempt by Darlington Nagbe. Fifteen minutes later, Rimando made a diving save on a header by Noberto Paparatto. Rimando was also helped by his defense, when Luis Gil cleared another Paparatto header on the goal line.

“He came up big for them and that’s probably the difference on the day,” Porter said.

“It’s not easy, in the rain, and on the turf. There’s going to be some bad hops. There’s going to be some things that don’t go your way. But we stuck together and dealt with it,” Cassar said. “We were under the gun there for a little bit, but I was extremely proud of the way our guys played.”

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