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What we’re watching in RSL vs. Portland

RSL head to the northwest to take on the Timbers in midst of a busy week.

MLS: Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake play against the Portland Timbers in their second of three games this week. After a friendly against Manchester United, Real hit the road to take on the Timbers and will close out the week hosting arch-rivals Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. The Timbers are winless in their last six (three draws and three losses), while RSL have looked better in their last few games, they’re far from being seen as a heavy hitter. A win or draw on Wednesday could help change that perspective.

Center Back Depth

When I think way back to the start of the season, it seemed we had so much depth on the backline. Then the season started and players were out with international duty or injury (or both if you’re Justen Glad) and we quickly learned that some of our rookie signings played like rookies. However, just past the midway point in the season, we find ourselves with a new center back and a number of guys healthy in the same positions. This is most clear at center back. We have Glad, Silva, Horst, Maund, and Schuler who are all, at the very least, capable of starting. I was surprised that Silva didn’t start against Manchester United on Monday, and this may point to him not getting the start at Portland. I’m curious to see who comes out along side Justen and how Silva plays as either a starter or sub. That third place spot is going to be a competitive one and guys need to prove their value in that position.

Building Through the Middle

RSL has good wingers and we’ve done a lot of our attacking coming up the wings. This has been a strength but we need more attacking options. Monday night showed us that this team could build through the middle. The goal against United comes from going down the spine and Silva is exactly where a center forward should be and finishes. The combination of Beckerman and Sunny was effective. Kyle is a steady force in the mid field, but Sunny can be spotty. If we see those two have a good night in Portland, then we may see more options coming from the middle of the field rather than just the wings. Movsisyan has been listed as Out on the injury report by RSL, so we’re likely to see Silva as the center forward. If Silva can have the composure he displayed on Monday, we have a good chance for some goals.

Team Belief

This game should feature our ideal starting 11. If so, it’s the only time other than LA (and the first thirty of the Man U friendly) that we’ve seen these guys play together. I want to see an understanding from top to bottom of the how this team plays. How do we defend as a unit? How are we building the attack? What kinds of runs are we making? Where are shots being taken? Who steps? Who stays back? In short, there has been a lot of change, but we need to start emerging as a team who knows what we’re doing and how to do it. This is the Petke era and I want to see his iteration of Real Salt Lake take shape.