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Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers - Match Preview

For Real Salt Lake the question is how soon can they bounce back from the disappointment of losing the Champions League final on Wednesday night? Between emotions, fatigue, and some injuries the task will be difficult and I expect a lineup that is a real mix between regular starters and bench players.  We know that Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave, and Robbie Russell didn't travel with the team so there will be at least 3 changes from Wednesday night, I will give you my thoughts on the starting XI later.

For Portland they have been good at home 2-0-0, but haven't face a team the quality of RSL yet and they will be looking to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat at the Home Depot Center last weekend.  This is a team that has a mix of players on their roster from their USL days, expansion draft players, newcomers to MLS, and some trades.  At home they love to attack and have shown they can score goals with 7 scored in their 2 home matches.  Half of their goals this year have come from players other than their forwards as defender Rodney Wallace has shown the ability to fire some incredible shot from distance, midfielder Jack Jewsbury has gone more offensive with his new team, but perhaps the biggest threats are their forwards Kenny Cooper, who has returned to MLS and Columbian newcomer Jorge Perlaza.  Each of those 4 guys have 2 goals.

more after the jump:

Key Match Ups:

Emotions vs. Expectations

For RSL the emotions of Wednesday night are still raw and present, the organization, the fans, and the players put forth so much energy and effort that to expect a full recover in just a couple days is simply unrealistic.  I expect that the lineup will be juggled around and the guys who were able to focus in practice yesterday will get the playing time. I wouldn't be surprised if RSL start a bit flat in the match, but once the action heats up, I believe the natural abilities and instincts of the players will come out and they will be able to get to the matters at hand.

For Portland they have shown well at home and the expectations of their fans are that they will continue to dominate at home, a great home field crowd helps boost the Timbers and they have 3 goals in their first 35 minutes at home, so they will look to strike early.  They will also have an edge in familiarity with turf at Jeld-Wen Field, which is new and many have said plays a lot like real grass, but it isn't.  The Timbers may think their fans create an intimidating place for opposing players to play, but RSL is coming off matches at Saprissa and Monterrey and there is nothing the Timbers Army will be able to do that can be more intimidating than that.

Paulo Jr. vs. Timbers Defense

For Paulo Jr. each match he gets to play in sees him bring high energy, creativity and most often results, so with him likely getting a start in Portland he will get another chance to show what he is all about.  I know he is probably disappointed with just limited minutes on Wednesday night and limited touches once he got in but I expect you will see him look to really use his speed and skill on the ball to attack the backline of the Timbers.

The Timbers defense has allowed a league high 13 goals heading into week 7 and often it has been a result of mental lapses and teams using talented players like Landon Donovan to take advantage of those mistakes.  The Timbers also like to have their outside backs move forward to support the attack, and that will leave open spaces for a player like Paulo Jr. to attack.  While Rodney Wallace appears to have the speed to recover quickly, I haven't been impressed with Steve Purdy or their centerbacks, this has put a lot of pressure on Troy Perkins in goal and I expect he will see a good number of shots coming his way on Saturday.

Wildcards:

Collen Warner - For Real Salt Lake it is likely that Collen Warner will be in the starting XI and he has done very well with his chances to play (2 assists in New England match).  Collen played his college soccer at the University of Portland so you know he will likely have a lot of familiar faces in the stands, in college he was know for both creative playmaking (20 assists) and his ability to score (20 goals).  He has shown the ability to be a real creative player for RSL and I expect that he may fill in for Andy Williams as that second creative player on the pitch for RSL on Saturday, like so many of the younger players on the RSL roster, he knows that every match he gets to play in is a chance for him to secure more first team minutes.  Keep an eye on number 26.

Diego Chara - The Timbers went to Columbia for their first designated player and found a creative play maker in 25 year old Diego, who last year was one of the forces behind the offense at Deportes Tolima who scored a league best 88 goals in 2010.  He has seen just 45 minutes of action in the teams loss last weekend at LA, but I expect he will either be a halftime sub or even get the start this week.  It looks like the Timbers are using the strategy of trying to outscore their opponents with a high octane offense and home that their defense can hold on, so far that has worked at home for them, and with Chara in the lineup it should add even more offensive clout to a team that has some dangerous players.

Jair Marrufo - My oh My, it once again will be Jair Marrufo in charge.  He scares me, because you just never know if you get the guy who won MLS Ref of the year in 2008, or the guy who decides to take a water break in the middle of a match. He has been followed by controversial decisions at almost every level of play, was suspended in 2009 for poor performance, and this spring made some questionable calls in the international friendly between Mexico and Bosnia Herzegovina.  He has been in charge of 111 MLS matches, averages 3.3 yellows per match and has issued 28 red cards and pointed to the PK spot 40 times.  My only hope is that after the outrage at MLS officials after the first couple weeks of the season is that Jair wants to keep his name out of the headlines.

Prediction:

I think RSL will likely go with this starting XI: Nick Rimando, Chirs Wingert, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Collen Warner, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Paulo Jr. and Arturo Alvarez. That will allow some guys to get right back on the horse the bucked them on Wednesday and give some guys who normally are on the bench at the start of matches to prove themselves yet again.

I believe that we will likely see the Timbers come out very aggressively and look for an early goal knowing that RSL is still a bit shell shocked after the midweek loss.  I don't think RSL will be sharp the first 10-15 minutes but that it will take the leadership of Kyle, Will, Nat and Nick to get guys back focused on the task at hand.  The Timbers like to push high and RSL should be able to use the speed of Warner, Paulo Jr. and Tony to get some really good chances behind their defense.  Portland may take a lead in this match but I think the depth and determination of RSL will prove too much as the Cobalt and Claret will push for a 2-1 win on the road.

OFF MY SOAPBOX