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Three things to watch against Portland Timbers

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

With Real Salt Lake taking on vaunted foes Portland Timbers, we'll have plenty to which we can pay attention. And given we actually played well* last week,

* A caveat here because we should talk about how we played and why we were actually pretty good defensively.

Thing the first: Keep a clean sheet

Until last week's match, we hadn't kept a clean sheet since the start of August. And we'd not really been lacking in games played. That's pretty dismal, right? Well, yes. But we did it, and we should continue doing that. Those who think we'd be better off scoring more and throwing caution to the wind, take note: The playoffs are a time when good defensive play is important, and abandoning that to satisfy some urge to 'not sit back,' or to 'keep our foot on the gas' — whatever that really means — would be foolhardy.

Thing the second: Form heading into the playoffs

We've never really had excellent form heading into the playoffs, and it won't be excellent this time, either. But in our remaining two games, we should be aiming to maximize our form, maximizing our chances along the way. It's not that it's form that wins games, but that confidence on a bad run can be shaky. We don't want to be shaky, do we? That circles back to our first point pretty well.

Thing the third: Continue getting the most from Carlos Salcedo

With Chris Schuler almost certainly still out for this one, Carlos Salcedo is basically a lock to continue. He was very good against San Jose, never looking particularly bothered by too much. It was a game for him without many mistakes, and given Salcedo has suffered from making mistakes every now and again, it's hard to not feel pretty good about that. (As a note, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers were both error-prone defenders here, and they've done alright, haven't they?) Salcedo has merely suffered from what almost all young players suffer from — inconsistency. But he's fared much, much better than most in that regard.

Last week we watched for...

Can RSL get their motivation and concentration in the right place?

Yep! How nice.

Who leads the midfield while Javi and Luis are absent?

Sebastian Velasquez. Easy. Next question.

Where do the goals come from with Joao & Sabo gone?

Just like they have for most of the year, the midfield. I'm sensing a theme here.