Real Salt Lake resume MLS play this weekend as they play host to the reigning league champions. In the previous matchup held in the Rose City this season, Real conceded a late 2-0 lead surrendering a late Fanendo Adi brace in the dying embers of the match. Portland sits 7th in the Western conference table and will be looking to jump-start their season on the freshly planted Rio Tinto surface.
The 25 year old New Zealand native Jake Gleeson has been deputizing for the injured Adam Kwarasey, who is not projected to be back until July with a torn finger ligament. Gleeson has done an admirable job in his stead, which included a standout performance against the San Jose Earthquakes a month ago. The match resulted in the Timbers first clean sheet of the season.
Since Portland and Salt Lake last met, the captain of the Timbers has returned to anchor the defense. Liam Ridgewell has been a force since arriving in the States from England. Ridgewell is a threat on both sides of the pitch and is a difference maker to look out for. The 31 year old Englishman will be partnered in the middle by the vivid, orange beard of Nat Borchers, who is still loved and missed among most of the RioT faithful. First choice right back Alvas Powell will be in a race for fitness to be able to start this one, Taylor Peay will likely get the nod over Powell with Zarek Valentin on the left.
The man to look out for in the middle of the park is Diego Valeri. The colleague of Javier Morales plays very similar in style and position. He will be the man to deliver all set-pieces into the danger areas for his teammates to attack. The 30-year-old Argentine Designated Player isn’t shy either, as he is 4th league wide in shot attempts with 52 (1st among midfielders). Portland will be missing their alternative creative outlet in Darlington Nagbe. Nagbe is currently with the USA Copa America squad and will be sorely missed by the Timber faithful. Portland could likely adapt by adopting another defensive midfielder in Nagbe’s absence. Diego Chara will play behind Valeri looking to sweep up any potential counter attacks. Jack Jewsbury is a candidate to join Chara in a defensive midfield position.
The Timbers feature a trio of dangerous options in attack, which includes the physical presence of 6’4” Nigerian Fanendo Adi. The 25 year old is tied for 2nd in MLS in goals with 8, and is always a threat to finish with his head or either foot. He will draw the ire of RSL fans who remember the previous matchup as he put away two late goals to salvage a point for his side. Adi will be joined by another Designated Player from Argentina in Lucas Melano on one of the wings. Dairon Asprilla will miss out for clashing with Vancouver’s Kendall Waston after the whistle a couple weeks ago. Asprilla could be replaced by former Claret & Cobalt man Ned Grabavoy.