For the sixth and final time, we're reaching out to our friends at SB Nations's Real Salt Lake blog, RSL Soapbox, for perspective on the Portland Timbers' opponent. Obviously by now, the two teams are very well acquainted and there should be little that surprises in this MLS semifinal second leg at Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday night. Matt Montgomery answered the call and gives his thoughts on a few of the particulars as we prepare for the most significant of this season's sextet.
1. What was the reaction among Real Salt Lake fans to the first leg win: Hopeful and expectant? Or immediately worried about the second leg?
The reaction has been mixed, certainly. Plenty of people are hopeful if not downright expectant that we'll go through; some others (myself included) trend toward the more worried side of things. Some have said things like, "Ahead 4-2 in the first leg? Yeah, we're going to the Cup," which I find a bit hubristic for my tastes. Tempting fate isn't my favorite thing, really, and there's a little of that going around the supporters at the moment. Who can blame them? We looked really very good. Still, that's a thing that happened in the past, and assumptions about the future make me nervous. Still, 4-2...
2. Which injury would have a bigger impact: no Alvaro Saborio again or Chris Wingert's definitive absence?
Saborio, I suspect, would be the bigger loss. Chris Wingert is our starting left back for a reason, mind, but Saborio has a history of success for us. Is he perfect? Hardly. Does our side play better without him? That's possible, too. For my money, I don't really buy it hook, line, and sinker, but there's an argument to be made. But does he score big goals at big times? Absolutely. He's also a tactical piece that's difficult to ignore for other sides, and when we need to keep the opposition busy (and we will), somebody who can score at any given moment is surely somebody to deploy. Saborio is out with a hip flexor injury, apparently. He'll certainly be the more missed player of the two.
3. Will Real Salt Lake immediately attack Futty Danso and the Timbers beleaguered back line? Or is caution going to be Jason Kreis' game plan, more like the October 0-0 encounter?
Caution, I suspect, will be thrown swiftly and immediately to the wind. Or, rather, the sort of caution that causes us to sit back and hope that, for some strange reason, your side decides that they won't capitalize on the fact that when we sit back, we do poorly. And by poorly, I'd point to the second leg against Seattle Sounders in 2011, in which we went in with a three-goal cushion and then decided we'd defend as desperately as we ever have. (Fifty clearances! Distasteful stuff.) No, that sort of approach hasn't been a fruit-bearing one for us in the past, and if we try it again, we'll get burned. Besides - why sit back when your opposition is desperate for goals and will leave lust-worthy pockets of space open for exploitation? That sounds like my kind of match.
Predicted lineup: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Lovel Palmer; Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Luis Gil, Javier Morales; Robbie Findley, Devon Sandoval