Three road games left and Portland's chances for the first road win of the year are dwindling. This time they go to Sandy, Utah and take on Real Salt Lake at the Fortress. With the short turnaround from Wednesday's game I would expect to see some changes to the line-up for this road game.
*Sorry folks, no pictures for this preview -- just couldn't get it done in time.
The last few road games have seen Portland actually take the lead early but then give it up late. If Portland wants to earn the road win, they need to solve the late game letdowns, and that starts at the back. The Defenders are not only the last line of defense they are also the start of the possession game. When the Timbers are up a goal on the road they need to be able to find an open player and if not at least clear it farther than midfield.
The other way the defenders are going to help ensure Portland earns a result is by not bunkering in the 46th minute! Why would you do that against the league leaders? Possess the ball and try to kill the game off that way. Parking the bus just leads to late game heroics for the other team, especially when the Timbers are involved.
They were completely disconnected in the last game and it took brilliant individual effort for any offense to be created. If GW roles out the 4-4-2 on the road again Darlington Nagbe has to be more involved and find space. It shouldn't matter how much pressure that puts on the outside back on his side -- he needs to find the space. Nagbe with space to attack and find open players will help take the pressure off the defense.
The midfielders are going to have their hands full with RSL's midfield, especially in the center of the pitch. They need to ensure they don't allow Javier Morales time on the ball to create for RSL and not let Kyle Beckerman to be the disrupt force he can tend to be on offenses. If Captain Jack Jewsbury and whoever partners with him can take on those two in the CM's and win their individual battles, then Portland has a shot at getting a result.
Chances were few and far between for the forwards last Wedensday, and you saw a difference between the two strikers who played the most minutes. Danny Mwanga buried his two opportunities while Bright Dike did not. When the chances come, the forwards need to score them. Portland may not get many opportunities to score against RSL and when they do get a chance whoever is in position to score needs to.
Portland will lose 2-1 after going up early in the game. I hope they prove me wrong.