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What we’re watching in the western conference final: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake

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RSL have made it to the western conference final where they’ll take on the Timbers in Portland

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

It’s been an incredible playoff run thus far for Real Salt Lake. Today they take on a team who has had their number all year. The Portland Timbers are without Asprilla, and Blanco was listed as questionable on the injury report, though his status was later upgraded to probable. Even with Asprilla and Blanco out, this will be the biggest postseason test for RSL.

Rusnak back

Albert Rusnak tested positive for COVID-19 the week of RSL’s first playoff game. After a ten day quarantine, he rejoined the team on Wednesday. Rusnak told RSL Soapbox that he felt fine and rested, much like he would after having a holiday. The question around him is if he can give 100% and if he’ll be able to go the full 90 (or potentially 120). Rusnak has been one of the best players for Salt Lake this year, and having him back should help improve the team.

To Bes or not to Bes

Everton Luiz will miss this match due to yellow card accumulation. This leaves a massive hole in the midfield when it comes to defense. Everton brings something to the field that no other player has, namely a tough tackling, defensive-minded player. Pablo Ruiz is sure to start, but that likely leaves space for one more player. There’s a few ways you could deal with Everton’s absence, but the most likely are having Kreilach play further back or bringing in Nick Besler. Besler struggled under the 3-5-2, but so did everyone who wasn’t an attacker. Dami has proved to be most valuable in the attack, but he’s played in the midfield for most of his career. Nick has had some very good games for RSL this season, but if he’s in good form he can be a huge asset.

Momentum

RSL were headed into Decision Day an unlikely side to make the postseason. They had to win on the road, which had been a challenge for them all season. But that 95th minute goal to give them the win was the spark to send them on this run. The players all look bought in and fully believe they’re capable of anything; a mentality that has the league talking and seems to make other teams nervous. Mastroeni has this group motivated. Will that belief be enough to give them an edge over the Timbers?

Injury report

Out: Zack Farnsworth

Suspended: Everton Luiz

Predicted lineup