KRIS LINDSAY - Monday, November 11, 2013
Real Salt Lake took a strong step towards the 2013 MLS Cup with a 4-2 rout of the Portland Timbers Sunday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Javier Morales tallied two assists and added a goal as Real Salt Lake took a two goal advantage from the first leg of the Western Conference Finals.

Former RSL player Will Johnson got the Timbers on the board early, with a stunning free kick in the 14th minute that drove the Timbers momentarily into the driver's seat.

The joy was short lived, however, as Real Salt Lake pressed forward, controlling the play throughout most of the first half. In the 35th minute, Chris Schuler rose on a Javier Morales corner kick, and sent the header to the near post past Timbers' keeper Donovan Ricketts to level the game.

Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley put the home side up for good just five minutes later on a mistake from Futty Danso. Danso attempted to chase down a pass intended for Findley, but his tap back to the keeper wasn't strong enough. Findley intercepted the pass and finished his shot near post past the onrushing keeper.

Findley added an assist to his stat column just after halftime. In the 48th minute, Findley chased down a pass from Morales, and sent a low pass to forward Devon Sandoval at the top of the six yard box. Sandoval took a touch past Jack Jewsbury, and slammed the ball into the far corner of the net to give RSL a commanding 3-1 lead.

Morales contributed with his head in the 82nd minute off a corner from substitute Joao Plata. Morales, who is normally accustomed to taking the corner kicks, found himself on the receiving end of the corner, powering his header past Ricketts to give the Claret and Cobalt what seemed like an insurmountable lead.

"On a corner kick?" laughed Morales after the game. "I don't know, I think that was my first time."

Frederic Piquionne offered the Timbers a lifeline in the dying moments of the game, sending home a Jewsbury cross into the far post to reduce the deficit to two goals returning back to Portland.

Portland Timbers manager Caleb Porter was confident in his team following the match. "The last goal was huge. We've come back from two goals quite a bit this year actually. If we get that first goal, you know, we are going to make this thing interesting."

Due to international FIFA dates, the return leg in Portland will not be played for another two weeks. The winner of the aggregate series will play in the MLS Cup final, guaranteeing the champion and the runner-up a spot in next year's Champions League competition.