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PORTLAND, Ore. – Real Salt Lake was crowned the Major League Soccer Western Conference Champion Sunday night and punched its ticket to the 2013 MLS Cup final with a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers in the Rose City.
The Salt Lake club entered the second leg of the Western Conference final up 4-2 on the aggregate score from the first leg of the series Nov. 10 with the Timbers.
RSL forward Robbie Findley increased the Salt Lake club's aggregate spread to 5-2 in the 29th minute when he put a ball past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Just moments before, RSL midfielder Luis Gil took a strike at Ricketts and it was blocked, but Findley got a foot on it putting it past Ricketts and into the back of the net.
The Timbers had two first-half goals from defender Pa-Modou Kah called back by the official due to a foul called on forward Rodney Wallace and then an offside’s call to Kah.
With the 1-0 win, the Claret and Cobalt broke the Timbers' 16-game unbeaten home streak in MLS competition at JELD-WEN Field dating back to April 6. The Timbers went 14-1-5 in the MLS regular season at its fortress.
Portland finished the match with the majority of the possession at 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent for the Salt Lake club, but the Timbers failed to convert any of its 18 attempts on goal. The Claret and Cobalt’s single goal on the night was enough to take the series and grab the Western Conference title, the trophy and a trip to the MLS Cup.
RSL went 1-0-2 at JELD-WEN Field this season and increased to 4-0-2 in all competitions against the Timbers this season. RSL is now 7-1-3 all-time against the Timbers.
The Salt Lake club played without two regulars — forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Chris Wingert — due to injuries. Defender Lovel Palmer and rookie forward Devon Sandoval got the starting nods from RSL head coach Jason Kreis. Palmer went 59 minutes before being relieved by defender Abdoulie Mansally, and Sandoval left the match in the 85th minute when he was subbed out for forward Olmes Garcia.
RSL will travel to face Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7. Sporting Kansas City advanced as the Eastern Conference victor Saturday night with a 2-1 over the Houston Dynamo. Kira Terry is a sports writer covering Real Salt Lake for KSL.com. Follow her on Twitter, @kiraterry.