Real Salt Lake host a strong Portland Timbers side tonight. RSL have had a game in hand over most teams around them in the west, and tonight they’ll use that game. If they don’t get a result tonight, their playoff hopes are all but done. Should RSL wins their next two games, and results go their way, they could end as high as 4th in the west. A win means RSL will clinch a playoff spot. On a night when the team is honoring longtime captain Kyle Beckerman, the stakes couldn’t be much higher.
Stopping Portland’s attack
It was less than six weeks ago that the Timbers beat RSL 6-1. Portland was able to expertly exploit RSL’s weak defense and after losing 4-3 to San Jose on Saturday, there’s little evidence that Real have fixed those issues. Without a strong number six, the three-back system has been overrun with some easy by teams RSL should be beating (San Jose, Chicago, Austin). The defenders will need to be at their absolute best tonight if they want to get a win.
If you were skeptical of Rusnak’s value to the team early in 2021, he has very much proven you wrong (yes, that’s me). He’s now in the double-digits on both assists and goals, which is exactly what you want from your number ten. After being snubbed from the Euros, Rusnak’s performance greatly improved and he’s helped carry this team. Even in the loss to San Jose, he was fighting to the very end. If he can bring that fight tonight, that’ll help RSL’s chances a great deal.
Against the Earthquakes, RSL scored from 3 of their 9 shots on goal. That’s not a bad rate of return, but their inability to finish in the first half cost them that game. The fact that Rubin only had 1 shot on target is a bit concerned, even if he helped the attack to threaten. RSL simply has to be better about finishing, especially if the defense is likely to give up goals.
Out: Zack Farnsworth, Toni Datkovic