Earlier this year many called the match at Jeld-Wen field between these two sides one of the most exciting matches of the season, can both sides who have been struggling of late recreate that type of magic on Saturday? I know that many will tell the type of end to end action we say back in March isn't the best soccer, and that is true but it is entertaining and exciting for the fans.
For fans of both sides it wasn't just the March match that brought huge excitement each of the 3 times these teams have faced off the matches have been huge for both teams. Think back with me to last spring, RSL was unbeaten in MLS action, and had just lost the Champions League final at home before heading to Portland to take on the Timbers who handed RSL their first loss of the MLS season 1-0, including that match RSL would win just 2 of their next 10 matches. Then take the last regular season match of 2011 as the Portland Timbers came to Rio Tinto, RSL was preparing for the playoffs and the Timbers were just finishing off their expansion season. RSL took a 1-0 lead into the final minutes of the match before Mamadou Danso equalized the match in the 90th minute.
So if you look a bit deeper at the numbers from this year, you find some interesting things: the Timbers have given up 9 goals in the final 15 minutes or stoppage time of matches, RSL has scored 9 goals in the final 15 minutes or stoppage time of matches. Both sides have given up 21 goals this year, but RSL has had more matches where they give up multiple goals (7) than Portland (5), but don't get upset as RSL has 7 clean sheets and the Timbers just 3. You can also point to the fact that RSL has 5 matches where they scored more than 2 goals, the Timbers have just 1.
more thoughts about the match after the jump:
The lineup earlier this year for RSL was: Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Luis Gil, Alvaro Saborio, and Paulo Jr.
What makes that so interesting is we know that Fabian Espindola is suspended for this match and with both Tony Beltran and Jamison Olave being options for Jason Kreis coming back from injuries that kept the out on July 4th, it is possible we could see the exact same lineup again. I don't think we will, but it is possible.
We know the Timbers will be dealing with a couple of guys who picked up injuries over their recent matches, Rodney Wallace, and Franck Songo'o but they will have Kosuke Kimura, who they picked up in a midweek trade with Colorado, and Hanyer Mosquera, who is back from a multi-match suspension.
If we look back at the March match between the two sides as a guide to this match, we saw what we expect from RSL, 544 passes with a completion rate of 82%, which lead to 61.2% of the possession. RSL took more shots 17 to 14, and both sides had 8 of their shots on goal. RSL took the lead on a PK by Alavaro Saborio, but two dynamic goals by Darlington Nagbe had Portland leading the match in the 88th minute 2-1. It was an indication that possession and passing alone don't win matches. The Timbers are a young, athletic side that loves to run up the sides at teams, 25% of their goals have come off crosses, for RSL that number is just 17%.
The question of the match for me is will RSL find a way to take more shots and capitalize on the opportunities they create? In recent matches it has seemed that often guys are looking for the perfect shot or a player who might be in a better position than taking the chances they are being given. I love that they are looking to improve their odds, but sometimes in life you have to simply take what you are given and make the best of it, and I would love to see RSL become much more aggressive in the number of shots they take against Portland.
I think Jason Kreis doesn't take too many chances with his lineup, I expect maybe just one change other than Paulo Jr. likely starting for suspended Fabian Espindola, that would be Jamison Olave returning to the lineup.
RSL should be able to dictate the match against Portland, and I don't think the Timbers will care, they will look to counter and quickly attack when the chances present themselves, for RSL that is dangerous as in recent weeks mistakes have been punished by opponents. Still after a solid midweek effort against a very defensive minded Sounders club, the aggressiveness of the Timbers will leave more openings for the RSL attack, I think this one ends up a 3-1 RSL win.
So those are my thoughts on the match, what do you think the score will be?
OFF MY SOAPBOX