The playoffs are upon us and Real Salt Lake have a home playoff game for the second year in a row. RSL finished the regular season in third place in the west, thus giving them a home playoff spot, which pairs them with the Portland Timbers. RSL have struggled against the Timbers, having not beaten them since 2017. It’s not an ideal match up for Real, but playoff soccer seems to be a totally different beast than the regular season.
Dealing with the counter
The Timbers will want to sit deep and spring counter attacks against Real. PTFC have made that work in two games this season already, and it seems likely that they don’t change their plan too much. While Portland has been inconsistent in 2019, they have had RSL’s number. The question then becomes how does Freddy Juarez adjust to what Portland has done successfully against RSL? Both teams will want to come out for a win, as it’s a single elimination round, so RSL will need to be solid defensively. The Beckerman/Luiz partnership in the midfield will be key to finding defensive success.
If they can nullify the Timbers’ counter attacks, the job then becomes to break through their defensive block. Sam Johnson would be the obvious choice for that, but Damir Kreilach is the favorite in the center forward role. Damir, with Sava and Bofo/Plata/Baird on the wings does work, but it hasn’t been effective against Portland. If Damir does start, it would be good to see Johnson get enough time to influence the game.
There was a stretch of several years when RSL fans did not see any home playoff games, so having a home game two years in a row is significants. However, with other games happening around Utah, it may be difficult to get numbers to the RioT. One would hope that the good citizens of Salt Lake City would understand that soccer is really the only sport that matters, and thus show their support for RSL by attending the match, but hoping for that might be asking too much. Attendance numbers will be big, and yet again, we’re likely to see Rimando’s last game at Rio Tinto.
Out: Allen (SEI-knee; 6/16/17)
Beltran (knee; 3/15/19)
Besler (foot; 8/10/19)
Toia, Glad, Onuoha, Herrera
Saucedo, Rusnak, Savarino