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The Salt: What should RSL expect against Portland Timbers?

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It’s time for some knockout action.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Why, hello!

It’s been a bit since we talked, and we do have the playoffs ahead of us, and frankly, that’s an exciting time. It is, right? I’m not hallucinating?

I ask in part because I have this strange feeling that right now, we’re just sort of playing a waiting game, of sorts.

Not a fun one, either. But it’s not really one that’s got me filled with tension, worry or anxiety about the impending match against Portland Timbers.

I have my hypotheses, but the most prominent one in my head right now is that it simple is not a particularly fun time to be a Real Salt Lake supporter, playoffs or not. We’ve been stuck in this loop of controversy, and while I’m not decrying the controversy or the fact that we’re focused on it — I’m far from the first person who should be doing that, given we’ve been trying to cover it closely — it does start to wear on one’s feelings about the team.

And so it is that we’re days — literal days — away from the playoffs and there’s just not that much chatter.

I mean, you can still buy $20 tickets to the match. It doesn’t look like there’s too much availability, but still — that’s quite striking.

At any rate, let’s move on from all this. I don’t have answers, but if you do, do feel free to share. I’d quite like that.

What should we be expecting in this match?

Well, to be quite frank, I don’t think any of us really know what to expect right now, and that’s mostly because RSL coach Freddy Juarez hasn’t been here before. Not as the head coach, at least. He doesn’t seem like the sort to get overawed at most anything, but again, we don’t know.

I do think we can highlight a few key things, though. So let’s do that.

1. Portland has been kind of ... bad

I don’t think any of us expected this, but Portland very much backed their way into the playoffs. It took a 2019 Decision® Day™ win over San Jose Earthquakes to make it into the big dance (... is that what people still call it? I sure hope they do.)

Before that, they saw three consecutive draws, and before that, back-to-back losses. Four of those five non-optimal results came at home. This is on the road, so I dunno.

2. RSL has been kind of bad against Western Conference opponents

Who’d have thought that we’d make our way into the playoffs by beating teams in the East, not in the West? There’s always lots of talk about how you’ve got to beat teams in your conference to achieve a good standing, but this is Major League Soccer we’re talking about. It’s a weird world. (10 of our 13 losses came against Western Conference opponents. Just 9 of our 16 wins came against the West. That’s weird. Even weirder: 6 of those 9 came with Juarez as the coach. That’s nice.)

Anyway, if I’m going to stand by what I said earlier about Freddy Juarez not really having been here before, then I should remain internally consistent. He wasn’t coach for most of that time. And he held a significantly better record than his predecessor in that specific regard. So, yeah.

3. This is at home. We’re good at home.

Our home record — 12-4-1 — is good. Portland’s away record — 6-8-3 — is not great. (It’s not terrible in MLS, though. To contrast, LAFC’s away record is 8-3-6. That’s good but considering they were the runaway winners basically the whole season, it tells you something. They dropped points in more matches than they won.

4. It’s just one match.

Anything can happen in just one match. Look at the 2018 MLS Playoffs, when fabled underdog Real Salt Lake beat the favorites to win it all, LAFC. Anything can happen.

Which I guess is also a scary thing, but I guess I should just quote myself from above, like a passive aggressive tweeter.

(T)his is Major League Soccer we’re talking about. It’s a weird world.

In conclusion

I’m excited, but I’m not feeling antsy about this match. I suspect come Wednesday or Thursday I’ll be feeling differently.

Off-topic

I’m making chili. It will be spicy. Please come try it at the tailgate lot.

Other than that, it’s been a busy two weeks for me, as we’ve been moving into a house from our apartment. It’s a close move (like, .04 miles close) but it’s still an all-consuming thing. So, yeah. Great timing on that, Matt.