Real Salt Lake will hope to do three things tonight against Portland Timbers. The first: avoid a loss, so as to continue the unbeaten start to the season; the second: avoid a loss, so as to keep Portland from breaking their winless streak; the third: retain the undefeated streak against Portland Timbers in MLS play that dates back to April 2011.
Of course, it's hardly that simple, is it?
Without Nick Rimando, who is out with a knee injury, Jeff Attinella should step into goal without too much issue. He's proven himself a capable shot stopper, but he'll want to do more to organize in his area on set pieces. Portland might see Attinella as a weak spot, so don't be surprised if we see more than a few shots from distance - especially with the ability in those situations on the Timbers side.
But we know something about Donovan Ricketts (MLS goalkeeper of the year, wouldn't you know) and his shot-stopping, particularly his propensity for rebounds. Should Luke Mulholland appear, this might play right into our hands - the kid and rebounds, well, you know.
We'll want to capitalize on any space they afford us, and there should be plenty of that. Seven games without a win seems a difficult proposition for Caleb Porter to accept, and given last season's RSL-Timbers history - which, if you don't remember (and we're certain you do) consisted of Salt Lake wins and a draw or two - there's even more incentive. This ought to leave plenty of room for capitalization, and if we get an early goal, things will surely open right up.
This should spell opportunity for Real Salt Lake, but particularly Olmes Garcia. Joao Plata isn't quite ready for a full match, having just come back into full training (or close to it, at least) this week, but he might find himself on the bench. Garcia's not scored since July, and a goal wouldn't go amiss. Whoever Portland puts out in central defense probably isn't ready for Garcia's speed or technique, given their lackluster showings this season.
But the biggest impact could come off the bench - Plata, as before, might be there. We've missed his little frame and vision on the ball, and getting him involved at the first opportunity would serve well. He'll stretch play in his own particular way - not totally dissimilar to Garcia.
It will hardly be the easiest match of the year, but it's perfectly geared for an exciting, open one. With a bit of patience and resolve (things everyone needs, I suppose) in defense, and with some creativity in attack, we could be looking at three points.