Real Salt Lake should be known for its "Walls"
The Portland Timbers left everyone watching Friday's match pondering how they could not get on the scoring sheet once. Shot after shot, the crowd at Providence Park rose and fell without ever hearing the rumble of the chainsaw. After recording 23 shots on the night, even the Timbers' best were stonewalled.
Coming off a 90-minute shift in the US men's national team's 1-1 draw against Honduras on Tuesday, Nick Rimando stole the highlight reel for this match. In the 18th minute of this rain-soaked match, Rimando showed off his brilliance, punching a dangerous cross by Diego Valeri away from the head of Fanendo Adi. The US international then stopped a one-timer from Rodney Wallace off the rebound.
The second half of play was wilder. Rimando again made the highlight reel after the most frantic sequence of events in the 61st minute. Rimando first stonewalled Darlington Nagbe from what appeared to be a gaping goal after a block shot from Valeri. Rimando then watched as teammate Chris Wingert cleared a Rodney Wallace shot off the line before Adi deflected yet another rebound into the side netting.
Of the Timbers' 23 shots, seven were on goal, forcing Rimando to make six incredible saves on the night. If the Timbers' do manage to miss the playoffs, it will be due to the fine work of Rimando.
Whether it is Jeff Attinella or Nick Rimando in-between the sticks, Real Salt Lake has a way of producing and fielding some of the best net-minders in the league. With two of the league's best goalkeepers at his disposal, it should be no surprise that Jeff Cassar used to be RSL's goalkeeping coach before he took the job at the helm of the coaching staff.
While Rimando will remain the Wall of the Wasatch with his record of 114 shutouts, we should also remember that RSL have other - up and coming - Walls behind him. With the prowess of their goalkeepers known, RSL will continue to be a formidable foe.
Returning to form before the playoffs
In preparation for the playoffs, Real Salt Lake is looking to round into form and Portland is a perfect place to get a taste of the playoff atmosphere. The stadium is packed, the crowd is loud, and the team is hungry. RSL went to one of the hardest places to play and came away with a point and a shutout on the road.
During the post-match, many Timbers' players stated that they came into the game believing that they were going to win. After nearly two dozen attempts to find the back of the net, the Timbers were left frustrated. Nevertheless, Porter said he placed no fault on his group, saying they "left everything on the pitch."
While Real Salt Lake's finishing could have been more clinical last Friday, other aspects of the game were impressive. Despite being away from home, RSL maintained better passing accuracy in the attacking half and through crosses than their opponents, who also attempted less passes. Even more impressive is that RSL maintained more possession than the Timbers - who are known for their high-pressure and possession-oriented tactics - at Providence Park. RSL was also better defensively with 21 tackles won. Again, while the scoring was not there, RSL's game looked better than it has in the preceding matches.
Logging on to FIFA 15 today, I noticed that Real Salt Lake's form has been upgraded with seven increases and no decreases. While I put little stock into the rating system that EA Sports gives - mostly because of their lackluster rating for American and MLS players alike - this does provide a good talking point.
With the playoffs just around the corner, form is something that many analysts and commentators squawk about. While it is debatable, form can play a large part in the post-season. Despite only getting a point at Providence Park, EA Sports got something right with improving RSL's form. RSL looks to be getting back into playing the game with their style and it should make for some glorious playoff soccer.
Discussion Topic: How important is the 3rd place in the Western Conference?
Around the league there has been a lot of talk about how important it is for a team to claim third place over fourth place in their respected conference. Not only does third place eliminate one extra match the team has to play, but it also gives the team an extra week of rest and preparation that fourth place does not afford. On the other hand, if a team comes into the playoffs in bad form, the extra match could provide extra game time and motivation to improve the team's form.
Therefore, how important to you is it for Real Salt Lake to claim third place in the Western Conference?