Real Salt Lake is traveling to face the MLS Defending champs, the Portland Timbers. They will try to walk out of Providence Park with 3 points. RSL currently sits in 4th place in the Western Conference standings and they have a chance to claim one of the top spots in the standings, with a result on the road. Here is what we think you should watch for during the game.
Real Salt Lake has recently had two significant injuries to Javier Morales and Jamison Olave. While both of these core players are expected to play on Saturday, the biggest question mark is if they are ready to go the full 90 minutes. While Javi has returned to practice, Olave has not been fully involved in practice this week. If he is not ready to go, we may see the 2016 debut of Justen Glad. While Olave is expected to play, it is good to know that we have a replacement for him.
Jeff Cassar, in the past couple of weeks, has made very offensive-minded substitutions. While early on in his coaching tenure with RSL, Cassar was nicknamed Cassartacus, partly for his bold substitution patterns. This trend can continue if RSL decides to lean into the Timbers and have them playing on their heels even in the closing minutes of the game. Cassar’s substitutions patterns will ultimately be determined by the score at that time. If RSL is up in the closing minutes of the game, Cassar will most likely committee numbers to the defensive end of the field. At that point, he could decide to switch the formation to a 4-4-2. Essentially having the midfielders in front of the defense and have two holding forwards to hold the ball to wait for support to alleviate pressure on the defense, which could lead to a counter attack. This could ultimately create chances for RSL to score a couple of goals.
The dynamic trio
RSL has been able to do one thing so far this season that last year seemed like an impossibility: score goals. With the acquisition of Yura Movsisyan this off-season and Burrito Martinez hitting top form, RSL’s ability to create, and now finish those chances, has been the biggest improvement so far this year. Not only have Yura and Burrito meshed seamlessly with the team, but we are also starting to see the Joao Plata of 2014. Plata led the team with 13 goals that season. With the combination between Javier Morales and the front three, RSL has created a dynamic threat and has started to shine in the 4-3-3 formation, despite having some collapses on the defensive end. With injuries in the Timber’s back line, most importantly to center back Liam Ridgewell, RSL can create the same chances that were generated against the Sounders and OCSC. If they have the finishing touch, RSL will have the opportunity to score big, if they can capitalize on any mistakes the Timbers make.
Real Salt Lake has the ability to walk away with a result from Providence Park. They will need to put the ball in the back of the net. If they can generate some goals and make defensive stops, RSL can help hand Nick Rimando his first shutout of the 2016 season.