Salt Lake and Portland ready for statement MLS matchup
Only a few games remain on the MLS schedule and chances to make a statement in front of fans, management and the league are dwindling.
In the Timbers case, there is also a new manager who is looking on from afar at every pass, shot and tackle.
For RSL its time to start getting back to winning ways in ramping up to the MLS playoffs.
The Utah side is one game away from clinching a spot in the playoffs this weekend. The Timbers, already eliminated from the post-season race, this is more about pride and performing well in front of temporary coach/general Manager Galvin Wilkinson and already hired new coach Caleb Porter.
Real Salt Lake will be playing at home and that is always a advantage. Probably no better advantage than against the dismal record of the Timbers on the road this year (0-10-4), just 4 draw points away from the happy confines of Jen-Weld Field. RSL is coming off a late victory in Panama, where star striker Alvaro Saborio scored in the dying minutes of stoppage to help Salt Lake defeat Tauro FC in CONCACAF Champions League.
That victory gave RSL a fighting chance in moving on in the important tournament. However, no victory goes unpunished it seems for RSL, as Saborio dropped in pain immediately after the match.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis said after practice Friday that “He wants to play. … “ and that he might be ready to go in the Timbers match-up.
Also missing from the Tauro FC match but ready to return against Portland will be Captain Kyle Beckerman. The US international will be in the line-up for sure against the Timbers on Saturday evening.
Portland will coming off a glass-half full mid-week game against league leading San Jose. The Timbers were up 2-0 at one point before Golden Boot leader Chris Wondolowski scored 2 in the 2nd half as a substitute (he is leading all MLS goal scorers with 21 goals and on pace to possible break the league record of 27 in one season).
Recent acquisition from Philly, Danny Mwanga (returning to his US home town), scored the two goals to lead Portland. Unfortunately former RSL-defender David Horst was unable to lead the Timbers defense in stopping Wondolowski.
Real Salt Lake has a advantage over the Portland Timbers this year. RSL came from behind and won at Jen Weld Field earlier in the season, with late winning goals from midfielders Jonny Steele and Beckerman.
More recently, RSL defeated a 10 man Portland club 3-0 on a hattrick by striker Saborio.
Saturday will probably will not be the easy match the Timbers are looking for but RSL may be tired from travel to central America.
Both teams need a statement game. Both have items on the line. MLS Playoffs, and probably jobs are on the line for both clubs.