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RSL vs. Portland preview: Slumping Timbers host tenacious RSL

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RSL travels to Providence Park to take on the Portland Timbers, who are winless in their last six.

MLS: Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake USA TODAY Sports

Just two days after holding their own against Manchester United, Real Salt Lake will face off against the Portland Timbers in an important league game — their first since the 6-2 thrashing of LA two weeks ago.

RSL (6-12-2, 20 points) currently sits in ninth place after grabbing the full three points at the StubHub Center, lifting themselves out of dead last in the Western Conference. An impressive display from Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnak, and the rest of the gang gave RSL fans some hope going into the Gold Cup break that this would be the caliber of team they’d see for the rest of the season.

After going toe-to-toe with Manchester United on Monday, with the first team putting on an impressive display against the EPL giants for the first half hour, gave the fanbase even more hope going into the match at Providence Park knowing that Savarino and Co are ready to go.

Portland (7-7-6, 27 points), who started the season off strong but are now winless in six, sit in fourth place, but only seven points ahead of RSL in a tight Western Conference table. They haven’t had any problems finding the back of the net this season, but their leaky defense has caused some serious issues in recent outings. Add the slew of injuries and international call-ups, and we’ve got a Timbers team who looks beatable on the road for RSL.

Match history

Through 17 regular-season games between these two sides, they’ve each won five apiece, while seven have ended in a draw. RSL holds a slight edge in the overall series, outscoring the Timbers 22-20.

In Portland, the home side has won twice while the visitors only once, and they’ve battled out to five draws surrounded by the Timbers Army. Regardless of Portland’s recent poor form, it still stands that RSL is winless against the Oregon side in the last eight games, with four losses and four draws.

The last meeting came on September 10, 2016, when Portland secured a 1-0 victory over the visiting side thanks to a 12th-minute goal from Fanendo Adi.

This is the first of only two meetings between the Western Conference rivals this season.

Key players and absences

While RSL’s injury list has been shrinking the last couple of months, Portland’s seems to keep getting longer. The 2015 MLS Cup Champions are without a whole group of players at the moment, including David Guzman, Darren Mattocks, Alvas Powell, and Darlington Nagbe who are all out with their respective countries on Gold Cup duty. Injuries include Liam Ridgewell, Jack Barmby, Diego Chara, Chance Myers, Vytas, and a few others whose absences have an obvious impact on the team.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to the players who will be on the pitch for the Timbers, Diego Valeri has been a standout midfielder since the day he joined the team in 2013. With 47 goals and 49 assists in under four years, he’s a force to be reckoned with and has had a massive hand in any recent success the Timbers have seen. His combination play with star striker Fanendo Adi is unrivaled, and when they’re firing on all cylinders, they’re one of the most dangerous midfielder/forward combinations in the league.

Let’s not forget that our old friend Jeff Attinella is on the roster as well, and has made four appearances and 15 saves when first-choice ‘keeper Jake Gleeson has been unavailable.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

RSL, untouched by Gold Cup call-ups, seem to have found a way to get the gears turning in unison. 20-year-old Jefferson Savarino (2 goals, 2 assists) had a breakout performance against the LA Galaxy, and has only made eight appearances on the season so far. His impact has been almost immediately felt, and it seems as though he may have won himself a starting spot on the wing, as Mike Petke opted to start him on the right side over Brooks Lennon in the last match.

With Savarino, Albert Rusnak, and Joao Plata at full strength, the Salt Lake attack has looked better than it has in years. Luis Silva even bagged himself a nice goal against Manchester United — something he hasn’t quite been able to do in league play this season yet. Although one great game doesn’t mean they’re MLS Cup-bound, it’s a great starting point and something they’ll hope to build off of.

The big question mark surrounding this game will be Yura Movsisyan’s status with the club. After rumors of his trade to LA swirling and then dying out, while not making an appearance in the friendly on Monday night, people are wondering if he’s out of Petke’s good graces for good, or if the minor injury was the real deal. At any rate, Silva has been starting the bulk of the recent games over Yura, and with the transfer window open, anything could happen in the coming weeks.

Soccer: Manchester United at Real Salt Lake
Marcelo Silva is eligible to make his MLS debut.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

This game could also see the MLS debut of RSL’s newest center back Marcelo Silva, who signed for the team on July 3, but wasn’t eligible to play until the transfer window opened on July 10. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be thrown into a starting role immediately, or if Petke will work him in a gradual rotation with Glad, Maund, Schuler, and Horst.

RSL is only missing three players who are out of commission with injury, in Chad Barrett, Omar Holness, and Jordan Allen. While Brooks Lennon and Sunny are both still listed as questionable, they both played a good chunk of the friendly against Manchester United and seem to be back to match fitness.


Leading scorers

RSL: Yura Movsisyan (6), Albert Rusnak (4), Joao Plata (3), Luke Mulholland (2), Jefferson Savarino (2), Kyle Beckerman (2)

POR: Diego Valeri (10), Fanendo Adi (10), Sebastian Blanco (3), Darlington Nagbe (2), Dairon Asprilla (2)

Absences

RSL
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee surgery), Omar Holness (knee), Jordan Allen (knee-out for season)
QUESTIONABLE: Brooks Lennon (ankle), Sunny (hamstring)

POR
OUT: David Guzman (int’l duty), Darlington Nagbe (int’l duty), Alvas Powell (int’l duty), Darren Mattocks (int’l duty), Gbenga Arokoyo (achilles tendon), Diego Chara (hamstring), Amobi Okugo (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Jack Barmby (ankle), Chance Myers (hamstring), Liam Ridgewell (quad)

Match info

When: Wednesday, July 19, 8:30PM MT

Where: Providence Park — Portland, OR

Weather: 63 degrees, partly cloudy

Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live

Referee: Baldomero Toledo