After a last-minute equalizer against the Los Angeles Galaxy to preserve an unbeaten home record in league play, Real Salt Lake travel to Providence Park to take on the Portland Timbers. Portland is just barely ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes in a race to the last playoff berth and will be looking for a big home result tonight against the Claret and Cobalt.
Jake Gleeson will be in the net for the Timbers. Gleeson’s early season heroics while Adam Kwarasey was out, made the latter expendable during the transfer window. With Kwarasey now playing back in Norway, Gleeson is the clear cut number one and looking to rebound off of last week’s performance conceding three goals against FC Dallas. Gleeson currently ranks 4th league wide for saves with 95 total in only 21 games started this year, the Timbers defense won’t want to keep relying on Gleeson to keep them in games even though he’s been excellent at it.
The anchor of the Timbers back-four is 32 year old Englishman Liam Ridgewell. The team captain’s performances since arriving in 2014 have recently led to a contract extension this past week, that will reportedly keep him at the club another two years. “It’s exciting times,” Ridgewell said. “I really feel blessed.” With his familiar faced partner Nat Borchers out for the season, the Timbers signed fellow Englishman Steven Taylor shortly after Borchers ruptured his achilles. The former Newcastle United defender is still getting used to the MLS style of play, but has already notched a goal to his name against bitter rival Seattle Sounders. Ridgewell and Taylor will likely be supported by Vytautas Andriuškevičius on the left and either Alvas Powell or Jermaine Taylor on the right.
The Timbers midfield creativity will benefit from the return of United States men’s national team member Darlington Nagbe returning. Nagbe will help Diego Valeri shoulder the burden of opening up opportunities for the rest of the team. Valeri is second league-wide amongst midfielders for goals scored with 11 trailing only Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti with 14. Lucas Melano will play the other advanced midfield role while Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury will hold the defensive midfield positions to keep the play in front of them.
The main goal threat on the Timbers if not Diego Valeri, is the sole striker Fanendo Adi. The physical Nigerian will hope to feast on an RSL back-line missing their own specimen in Jamison Olave due to suspension. Adi is always a threat to score with his head standing at 6’4, but has shown he is a capable finisher with either foot as well. Adi is tied for 4th in the Golden Boot race with a host of others with 14 goals on the season. The Timbers feature some dangerous forwards on their bench with Darren Mattocks and Jack McInerney who can come on as impact subs if Portland find themselves in need of a goal in the 2nd half.