PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Nick Rimando wasn’t at all surprised that the injury-challenged Timbers came at him.
Real Salt Lake’s veteran goalkeeper made five saves to fend off the surprisingly tenacious Timbers for a 0-0 draw in the season opener Saturday night.
Portland was without three key players in Will Johnson, Diego Valeri and Diego Chara because of injuries.
“They play great every time they play at home. They have the fans here that really give them a boost and I think (coach Caleb Porter) does a good job pumping them up playing at home,” Rimando said. “Obviously those are three key players for them, but we had some players out as well, and I think it’s just any time we play each other, the quality’s not going to go down.”
Real Salt Lake has not lost in its past six season openers, all of them on the road.
“I’m not sure how we didn’t win, to be honest with you,” Porter said. “I don’t know what more we could have done.”
The match marked the Portland debut of Nat Borchers, who spent seven years with Salt Lake. Borchers, a two-time MLS defender of the year, was a key contributor on Salt Lake’s 2009 MLS Cup-winning team.
New Portland goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey, signed in the offseason after playing in Norway’s top league, earned the clean sheet in his debut.
RSL finished 15-8-11 last season and was knocked out by the eventual MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference semifinals. It was the team’s seventh season in the playoffs, the longest active streak in MLS.
The Timbers ended up finishing 12-9-13 and just out of the playoffs. The last spot in the Western Conference wasn’t decided until after the final game: Vancouver’s victory over Seattle kept Portland out of the postseason.
Portland’s season start was marked by injuries.
Johnson broke his leg last season but should return in the next three or four games. Valeri, who led the team last season with 11 goals and 14 assists, tore his ACL in the final match and remained sidelined following surgery.
Midfielder Ben Zemanski had surgery to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Monday. He is expected to miss at least five months.
Chara wasn’t in the lineup because of what Porter has called a calf contusion sustained in the preseason.
Two new international additions for Real Salt Lake, Brazilian defender Pecka and Demar Phillips of Jamaica, did not play because of injuries. Forward Joao Plata continues to recover from a broken bone in his left foot.
Portland had the most chances in the match, but Rimando kept coming up with big saves.
Portland got close in the 29th minute on Dairon Asprilla’s header from about 6 yards out, but it sailed just wide.
The Timbers had another opportunity when Jack Jewsbury’s free kick in the 40th minute sailed into the box where Rodney Wallace got a touch, but Rimando dove on the ball to stop the threat. Portland finished the first half with six shots to Salt Lake’s three.
Rimando came up with another save in the 53rd minute on a point-blank shot from Wallace in the box. Minutes later, Rimando stopped another shot by Wallace from about the end line.
Kwarasey fended off a shot from Salt Lake’s Luis Gil in the 83rd minute. Kwarasey finished with two saves.
“It’s always nice to get a clean sheet,” Kwarasey said. “I give credit to my defenders. They were solid the whole game.”
There were five yellow cards in the match, going to Real Salt Lake’s Kenny Mansally, Gil and Chris Schuler, and Portland’s Alvas Powell and Liam Ridgewell.
Real Salt Lake is 5-2-5 against the Timbers in MLS matches overall and 1-1-4 at Providence Park.
“The biggest takeaway was, defensively, we were all on the same page. I thought the fight, the commitment, the passion, was off the charts defensively,” Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar said. “We came out of here with a shutout and I’m super pleased.”
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