SANDY, Utah – In a battle between two teams fighting for an Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs spot, it was the Portland Timbers who came out on top thanks to a major defensive error from Real Salt Lake.

The Timbers picked up a pivotal 1-0 victory over their Western Conference rival, staving off the team immediately behind them in the standings and all but ending RSL’s postseason hopes. A red card and a Fanendo Adi penalty kick, controversially awarded when Jamison Olave took down Lucas Melano at the edge of the penalty area in the second half, was all it took to secure the full three points.

The Timbers now move tentatively above the red line, tied with the fifth-place Seattle Sounders on 47 points from 32 games, three points clear of the San Jose Earthquakes and six over RSL and the Houston Dynamo.

The Timbers played a very high line of pressure from the opening kick and frustrated RSL in possession, and also had their fair share of chances on the counterattack throughout the first half.

Seven minutes into the second half, the game completely changed.

In the 52nd minute, Timbers forward Melano got in behind the RSL’s backline. Olave couldn’t quite catch him and eventually was whistled for taking him down right at the edge of the 18-yard box. Referee Juan Guzman consulted with the sideline judge and awarded a penalty kick and a red card for Olave, his third of the season.

Timbers forward Adi stepped to the spot and slipped a low shot past Nick Rimando.

RSL head coach Jeff Cassar brought on a number of attack-minded subs and left only three defenders in the back, searching for at least an equalizer to extend the team’s postseason hopes.

RSL had a couple of chances to pull level, and they both came at the feet of midfielder Javier Morales.

In the 69th minute, Juan Manuel Martinez sent a cross toward the top of the box where Morales was able to volley a magnificent, dipping shot towards goal. Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey just got a hand to it and sent it over the bar.

Morales again nearly found the equalizer in the first minute of stoppage time after Justin Glad fed him the ball in the box. The veteran midfielder got a shot off that was redirected thanks to a deflection. Kwarasey made a superb reaction save, preserving the victory.

One last-ditch cross from Martinez in the final minute of the game was smothered yet again by Kwarasey, buoying Portland’s playoff hopes and leaving RSL’s streak of seven straight postseason appearances in serious jeopardy.

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