SANDY, Utah -- Real Salt Lake did not need much time to run away from the Portland Timbers.
Scoring three goals on a 15-minute span, RSL earned a 4-2 victory over the Portland Timbers in the first leg of Major League Soccer's Western Conference finals Sunday night.
The second and final leg of the series will be played in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 24, with the team producing the best aggregate score advancing to the MLS Cup title match.
RSL forward Robbie Findley scored a first-half goal and assisted on a second-half goal. Defender Chris Schuler, forward Devon Sandoval and midfielder Javier Morales also scored for Salt Lake, which recorded its first three goals in a short stretch spanning both halves.
Midfielder Will Johnson and forward Frederic Piquionne scored for Portland, who is winless in five matches against Salt Lake this season.
Portland struck first, going up 1-0 on Johnson's goal in the 14th minute. Johnson blasted a free kick over the defensive wall and threaded the ball inside the far post. Johnson curled it tight enough to the post to deny RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando a chance to come up with a save.
Salt Lake did not stay behind for long. Once the home team's offense got moving, it never slowed down.
Schuler knotted the score at 1-1 in the 35th minute. Morales lobbed a corner kick high into the air, and Schuler outjumped everyone around him for the ball and headed it past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
Salt Lake took the lead on a defensive mistake by the Timbers in the 41st minute. Portland defender Mamadou Danso made an errant back pass under pressure from Findley and the ball squirted loose to the RSL forward. Findley sprinted past Danso, corralling the ball, and he flicked it around Ricketts as the keeper came off the line.
RSL burned Portland on a counterattack in the 48th minute to go up 3-1. This time, Findley latched onto a through ball and sent a cross to Sandoval inside the 6-yard box. Sandoval quickly put it home for his first career playoff goal.
Morales added an insurance goal in the 82nd minute off a corner kick. Ricketts made an impressive save moments earlier, leaping in the air to bat away a header from midfielder Luis Gil. Off the corner kick, forward Joao Plata found Morales on a run to the far post, and Morales lunged forward and headed the ball past Ricketts.
Portland undid some damage in the 94th minute when Piquionne buried a header to slice the Timbers' deficit to two goals going into the second leg.
NOTES: Portland midfielder Will Johnson scored no goals in 14 playoff games with Salt Lake, his former club. He has two goals in three playoff games with the Timbers this season. ... RSL has a nine-game unbeaten streak against the Timbers. Portland's lone victory came in the first meeting between the two clubs on April 30, 2011. ... Portland's 10-game unbeaten streak ended Sunday. The Timbers' previous loss was a 4-2 setback against RSL on Aug. 30. ... Salt Lake holds a 13-8 scoring edge in five matches against Portland this season.