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Match Preview: Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

RSL heads back into MLS play this weekend after a long break as they play host to the 2015 MLS Cup Champions Portland Timbers.

This will be the second of three times they face the Timbers this season, after they drew the first meeting in Portland with a score of 2-2.

There’s no place like home

This game will mark the first regular season game back at Rio Tinto Stadium after RSL’s five-game road trip. They’ll play seven of their next nine games at home with the potential to pick up some major points in the supporters’ shield race.

RSL currently sits in third place in the west (7-4-2, 23 points) while Portland, who is off to a rocky first half of the season, sits in seventh place (5-6-4, 19 points), just one point below the red line. Salt Lake has two games in hand on the Timbers, and as many as three games in hand on some of their other western conference opponents.

Match history

Portland seems to have RSL’s number in recent match history, leading the series 3-1-3 in their last seven matches in MLS play. The Timbers have won on their last three visits to Utah, the most recent coming last October when they edged out RSL 1-0.

On the flip side, the Timbers are also winless in their last seven at home against RSL, making this an affair of back-and-forth points on the road.

The last meeting between these two teams was on March 19th at Providence Park in Portland, when the Timbers came back from a 2-0 deficit to make a late comeback against a nine-man RSL and drew the game 2-2.

Key players

Nat Borchers is a name that we’ll most likely never stop hearing even long after he’s retired. The long-time RSL legend will make yet another return back to Rio Tinto Stadium in what is likely to be another emotion-filled match for the stalwart center back. Paired next to Liam Ridgewell, who recently returned from an early-season injury, these two are hoping to find their form in the weeks to come. Borchers, with one goal and one assist through 14 games played, will look first to add another notch in the clean sheet column after the international break.

The Timbers’ star forward Fanendo Adi is always one to keep his eye on as well. Known for being relatively streaky, he’s sitting on eight goals for the season and hasn’t scored since May 15th at home against NYCFC. Don’t be surprised if he has some golden opportunities, since his three-game dry spell is currently the longest he’s gone without scoring all season.

On the RSL side, Joao Plata seems to be finding his form again as of late also, especially after that world class strike he had in US Open Cup play against the Wilmington Hammerheads. he has five goals and six assists on the season and has only played a total of 900 minutes in MLS play. He turned out a goal and an assist in the 4-3 loss at Columbus a few weeks back, and you can count on his speed and pace to cause some trouble for whoever Portland decides to start at right back, since regular starter Alvas Powell is still out with a wrist injury.

Plata’s attacking partner Yura Movsisyan will look to keep adding to his goal tally after he notched one at Yankee Stadium a couple weeks back. He has four goals on the season, and seems to find himself with at least one or two golden chances every game. With quality service coming in from both sides—Plata’s dangerous cross from the left and Burrito’s magic touch from the right—Yura shouldn’t have too much trouble finishing chances especially during this long home game stand.

We can’t forget about Sunny, who will likely be helping to anchor the midfield especially in Kyle Beckerman’s absence while he’s out with the national team. Sunny has one goal and one assist this season, and has arguably been one of the most consistent players on the pitch in each game he’s played.