In their three matches against Real Salt Lake the Timbers have failed to get a win this year, making them the only Western Conference team other than the Vancouver Whitecaps that the Timbers have not beaten this year. This Saturday the Timbers have their final league match against RSL and a chance to clinch a top two seed in the West with a win.
Coming into Saturday's game we got ahold of Matt Montgomery of SB Nation's Salt Lake blog, RSL Soapbox, to fill us in.
After playing three matches in the month of August, of which one was a tie and the other two RSL wins, it has been a month and a half since the two teams met. What has changed for RSL since August 31st?
You know, it's hard to really pinpoint anything in particular that's changed. Our form is about the same, our confidence level is about the same, and our personnel remains about the same. Yeah, we went and lost a cup final, but remarkably, we've recovered quickly from that. There was a degree of necessity about that, because dropping points right now — as we did a few weeks ago — would be terrible and dangerous to our playoff chances.
Alvaro Saborio has scored in the last two games that he played for RSL, but one of those was their last match against the Timbers back in August (his one millionth goal against Portland). What has kept Saborio off the field for so much of this season, and is he fit to play now?
Two things have kept Saborio off the pitch: First, he's been prone to the odd little injury. That's not changed from previous years, I'd say. Second, he's been traveling for international duty frequently, and with the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers taking up his time, he was available less. Moreover, he often came back from those international breaks a bit broken, and our desire to have him available in the long-term meant he's had sit out with greater frequency than before.
Javier Morales is out for this game thanks to a suspension for yellow card accumulation. Who slots in for him and how will that affect RSL's style of play in Portland?
Luis Gil is the heir apparent to Morales's playmaking spot, and it's hard to imagine he won't take up the position on Saturday. Gil has been busy learning from Morales over the last three years, and he's finally starting to look like a good — not just good for his age, but good — attacking midfield option in our system. As a result, our style of play doesn't change significantly, although one might note that Gil takes up wide positions with slightly less frequency.
What significant injuries and absences does RSL have and what do you anticipate the starting lineup will be?