With three games in close succession, Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake will be very familiar with each other this month. As such, you probably remember our preview interview with Matt Montgomery of SB Nation's Real Salt Lake blog, RSL Soapbox about two weeks ago.
Despite having played each other so recently, quite a few things have changed between the two teams, including recent results, injuries and suspensions. Matt is back again this week to explain exactly where Salt Lake stands now that the Open Cup dust has settled.
1. How does Real Salt Lakes's disappointing 4-2 loss in Los Angeles play into the quick turnaround against Portland?
The short answer is that I really don't know. That was, as it ever is, a loss because we failed to defend in transition properly. One of those moments came from a goal kick - it was a sham of a match, really. So I'm hopeful that we remember that we do indeed need to focus on fundamentals: Defending goal kicks, closing down players with fantastic long passing ability, tracking back - they're all vitally important, and it's sort of like we forgot to take care of those on Saturday. Now, we were probably quite tired, but that should have informed our approach rather than damning it to failure. The quick turnaround doesn't make our players less tired, and it's not exactly the sort of match we'd like to rotate players for, but maybe it'll be necessarily.
I suppose the long answer is also that I really don't know, then.
2. Who will replace Kyle Beckerman on Wednesday and what kind of loss is that for Salt Lake in such an important away game?
Yordany Alvarez, who, thankfully, has just finished his suspension for a very poor tackle on one Tim Cahill, will replace Beckerman. It's a loss, no doubt, honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Beckerman did it purposefully. He needs a break - he's been playing essentially non-stop since before March, what with international duty and the busy season - and he's got to be running on fumes by now. It's surely a loss, as he's a player of immense quality even when he's suffering from fatigue, but at least we have a defensive midfielder with which to replace him.
3. Are there any new injuries to be aware of or other players coming back from suspension or cup-tied status that Portland did not face two weeks ago?
You know, I suspect things will be largely the same, with Alvarez replacing Beckerman as above, and perhaps Brandon McDonald getting another look in the side after Carlos Salcedo's struggles against Robbie Keane. He didn't feature in the US Open Cup because of his cup-tied status, as you well know. Still, I suspect Salcedo gets the nod again, as he's been very strong save for (shudder) Saturday - and he was hardly the only one to have struggled.
Bonus: What starting XI and formation do you expect from Jason Kreis?
Beltran, Salcedo, Borchers, Wingert
Alvarez, Grabavoy, Stephenson, Morales