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RSL vs Portland: What we learned

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Performance: not bad. No points? Bad.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

I came into this match with two major talking points. The first, Portland is going to be extra tough at home because they really need a win. The second, this match is going to be a huge yardstick for Freddy Juarez, what he’s done with the team, and what his place might be in the future.

A good match

Let’s just acknowledge this. It was a good match. Fun to watch. Portland let us control the ball and then hit us with counter-attacks. We went hard, but our mistakes cost us the game. Portland capitalized on our mistakes. The match was end-to-end and we had a lot of chances. We just lacked that final touch across the line.

Mistakes

That’s what cost us the match. It wasn’t because we played a poor ninety. It wasn’t because Portland vastly outplayed us. Portland did what great teams do and made us pay for our mistakes. That’s how games are won.

We had strong chances. Enough of them that we should have found the goal. But we didn’t. So we lost. Those chances must be converted.

Juarez

So what about Freddy Juarez? I’d call this one still up in the air. The team didn’t play poorly enough for me to stand back and shout that he doesn’t have what it takes. I enjoyed this one for its entertainment value. The team had a decent plan.

Why did we wait so long for substitutions? How should he be motivating our attacking players to take advantage of those chances in the final third? What shifts to the game can he make to give us more chances?

That’s what I’ll be looking for over the final matches of the season. Part of me hopes RSL finds a strong CONCACAF or CONMEBOL coach with the experience to push this team back to the domanince we once knew. The other part of me wants to see Juarez rewarded for his loyalty to the organization; to see that he has gained the skills through his work with RSL to lead the team into the future.

Overreactions

For just a moment I thought they might bring Plata on for Rimando after Nick took that head knock, and I got a bit concerned.

This game of Western Conference leapfrog is getting silly. Seventh place just jumped to second and Portland—sitting below the playoff line even after this win—sits just three points behind us and four points from second place.

Some younger guys are about to get a shot to show their mettle during the international break. Watch for some strong outings.

Hold on for a wild finish to the regular season.