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Storylines: Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake

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The Green and Gold look to take three points from Real Salt Lake

MLS: Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake USA TODAY Sports

The Road So Far

It’s been a nice break, but it’s time to get back to work.

Coming into this midweek match, the Timbers are in the middle of a stretch of results that have been less than optimal. In the last twelve the the boys in green and gold are 2-5-5. Not the most inspiring of records is it?

Currently the Timbers sit in 4th place. Keeping the Timbers a couple spots above the red line. If this team wants to keep above the red line - things need to change. And what a better way to get some momentum by beating a hapless Real Salt Lake.

It’s time to hit the reset button.

The kids aren't alright

Real Salt Lake started the season on the wrong foot. It was bad enough that just three matches into the season (0-2-1) the cobalt and blue jettisoned their manager; Jeff Cassar. They hired Real Monarchs and former New York Red Bulls manager Mike Petke to take over the job. His stint with the Red Bulls wasn’t very long (2013-2015) but he did help bring the Supporters Shield to New York while he was there.

Now he’s in charge of a team that’s slightly better than Minnesota United. Though headed into the break RSL broke a LA Galaxy squad in LA 6-2. It’s a aberration as I’m sure you understand. And to be honest the Galaxy just aren’t that good.

Petke has used the Gold Cup break to his advantage, by holding a “mini-preseason”. Something he didn’t get when he took over three matches into the season. They even competed in a 60 minute match during that ‘preseason’ training. Petke is still trying to put his mark on on this club - and maybe this will help further that end.

Then there’s Yura Movsisyan.

He and Petke haven’t seen eye to eye, thus he’s been an on and off against starter for Real Salt Lake. Right now rumors are swirling that by the end of the transfer window he could be a part of the LA Galaxy. Though the problems with that include a guaranteed contract and DP status. There’s also the fact he’s the team’s leading goal scorer with 6 tallies. Not optimal for RSL, but there are times when a player just has to go. But will he?

Club and Country

As we found out over the weekend, Darlington Nagbe will be missing from the Timbers midfield as he don’s the red, white and blue in the Gold Cup. With the Timbers short handed as it is, this doesn’t help. It’ll be interesting to see how Caleb Porter deals with this. Injuries have all but decimated the roster, so it’s possible we could see the lone holding mid that’s healthy get a run out on Wednesday night. I never feel very confident with Ben Zemanski starting.

The deeper the run by the United States the longer we’ll be without Nagbe’s services. I don’t think Bruce Arena called him in just to sit him on the bench, I’m pretty confident he will be in the starting XI come Wednesday night as the quarterfinals kick off.

If the United States manages to book themselves a trip to the Gold Cup finals, we’ll be without Nagbe for not only RSL but the Cascadia derby with the Vancouver Whitecaps on the 23rd.

Which will require more tinkering.

Darren Mattocks and Alvas Powell are also out on international duty with Jamaica and they have advanced to the quarterfinals on Thursday. So that means they will be gone for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday for sure and most likely will be missing for the match against Vancouver Whitecaps on the weekend.

The Ticos have made the knockouts as well, thus we lose David Guzman for two matches just like the others. As I just don’t see Costa Rica losing to Panama. That’s four players out for the next two matches.

Once again leaving the Timbers with a short bench.

Welcome To Soccer City USA

One bright spot about the match with Real Salt Lake is the possible debut of Larrys Mabiala at center-back. The reason I say possible, is he’s listed as questionable. Which could be down to match fitness. But, he didn’t start for T2 in their loss to Swope Park Rangers. This is a good thing in my eye’s, if he wasn’t match fit they would have started him in that T2 match.

The center-back pairing going forward and possibly the rest of the season will be Mabiala and Roy Miller. The one thing that I’m hoping for is that Larrys steps up and helps organize the back line. I think it needs some direction and maybe he’s the guy to do it. I don’t see a lot of organizing from Gleeson or Miller really.

One thing though to keep in mind, is it could take a while for this CB pairing to gel. The expectations from the fans are going to be pretty high. And shutter to think what happens if he doesn’t get off on the right foot.

The Season Starts Now?

It’s time to put the first half of the season in the rearview and plow forwards. The Timbers needed this break, hopefully this will reset the season and the Timbers can make something of the rest of it. The Timbers are sitting on 27 points, just five off of the leaders Sporting Kansas City. Which isn’t a bad place to be, even with the problems the Timbers have had.

Now if we’re going to go by PPG to get a better look, the Timbers have a 1.35 ppg which is good for sixth in the west. With the Sounders just sitting barely below the red-line, they put a run together and they could easily be a playoff team. And really missing the playoffs two years in a row isn’t an option for the Timbers. Doing that, would be catastrophic and could come down to Porter and how hot his seat gets.

Not that this is a must win, but we are at home and RSL for the most part has been terrible this season. If the Timbers want to put the right foot forward headed into the last half of the season, they need to get all three points. Dropping points at home is unacceptable.

The bright spot is that in the last five matches against the cobalt and blue the Timbers are unbeaten with a 3-0-2 record. So we’ve got that going for us.