Neither Real Salt Lake nor the Portland Timbers will have been pleased with their results in these early stages of the 2019 season, but Portland’s terrible form has been a big surprise. Portland’s stadium, Providence Park, is under construction and the team has played all their games away from home. They drew their first match, lost five in a row, but have won their last two games. Are they on a hot streak? Or will RSL be able to get all three points at home?
Last season hangovers
In the words of head coach Mike Petke, Portland is “a team that had their way with us in the second half of last season.” He’s referring to the 4-1 loss to the Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium on 10/6/18 and the 3-0 defeat in Portland on 10/21/18. A lot went wrong in those games, but things have since changed for both sides. The Timbers look to be on a post-MLS Final hangover. Real have improved, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Yet this is still a Portland team that can get results. A 3-1 win in Columbus and a 2-1 win in Toronto are very good results. Both those teams are above RSL in the standings. How much does the memory of last October play into this match? Will RSL have confidence from improved play this season?
This is a game where RSL could certainly use Everton Luiz. There’s one instances that comes to mind from that game in Portland where Chara blows past Beckerman in the midfield. Kyle is spriting but simply cannot keep up with the Colombian. That’s something that Everton can shutdown. We’ll certainly see Kreilach in the midfield, but Beckerman was held out of training on Friday. It was unclear if he’ll play or not. If the captain is out, we’ll see Besler paired with Kreilach. This would be a change from what we’re used to, and far from RSL’s ideal midfield. One of the biggest questions going into this game is if Beckerman plays, and if so, how Belser and Kreilach work together.
Albert, wingers, and Sam
Albert Rusnak needs to see the ball more. The attacking midfielder is at his best with the ball at his feet, and so is Real Salt Lake. More play should be run through Rusnak so he can help create chances, or even goals as he leads the team in that category.
Sam Johnson is finding himself in the league, which is improving the attack as well. With Plata returning to health, he’s been coming off the bench but has yet to register a goal or assist. Savarino seems to have locked down the right wing, which leaves one spot on the left for Baird, Plata, and Saucedo. A good argument can be made for each, however none of them have a goal in 2019. Baird and Bofo each have an assist, but how can the team improve production from that position?
Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)
Beltran (knee 3/15/19)
Rimando (knee; 4/15/19)
Holt (ankle; 3/30/19)
Luiz (knee; 4/13/19)
At Training on Friday Holt, Luiz, and Rimando did not participate in full team practice, but they did some training. Beckerman, who is not listed on the injury report, did not participate.
In Beckerman does not play, then we’ll should see Besler in his place.