Sunday is looming eerily in the distance, with the second leg against Portland Timbers one worth looking toward across the league. We may hold a 4-2 lead on aggregate, but there are a few things we'll need to look out for.
1) Caleb Porter might switch his tactical approach slightly
After getting smashed, more or less, by Jason Kreis's side, Caleb Porter will be throwing everything he has (kitchen sink, you know the drill) at Real Salt Lake in an attempt to make up a two-goal deficit and then surpass it. This is a difficult feat for a side that hasn't won against Real Salt Lake this season. When last Porter tried a new tactical approach against RSL, he rolled out an odd 3-5-2 that afforded space and time behind the wing backs repeatedly. His attempt to counter our apparent lack of width backfired significantly.
But still, he'll need to try something different than his standard three-man attacking force, three-man narrow midfield approach. Pushing those attackers forward will be of the highest order, and getting an early goal will be the prime impetus. As such, we may want to either surprise Porter with a tactical switch of our own, or be prepared to play with our usual approach and simply take advantage of the new space afforded.
2) Look out for early goals
The biggest threat we'll be facing comes from early goals scored by Portland. Despite the second goal we conceded in the first leg, we are still very much in the ascendency in this one, and momentum's in our favor. But an early goal will change the dynamic - the task becomes that much easier for Portland over 90 minutes. We should be ready to defend early, but we will also know that space will be opening up for us. If we stay resolute and manage to take advantage of that space, we could find ourselves back with a three-goal cushion early on.
3) Timbers will inevitably be extremely committed
Because Timbers are in a tight spot, and because they've shown more than a little resiliency this season, we'll need to be wary of that commitment and respond with our own. For the record, I don't think this will be a problem with which we'll be forced to deal: Our recent failures have propelled the team forward. Maybe this wasn't entirely expected, but the response has been magnificent.