The Portland Timbers are back at it on Wednesday, hosting Real Salt Lake as MLS play resumes. After five games without a win, the Timbers will be desperate to take all three points at home as they face off against the 9th place team in the West.
RSL are no pushovers and, despite a poor first half of the year, are coming off a big 6-2 win over the LA Galaxy. To get the low-down on the visitors, we turned to Matt Montgomery of our sister site, RSL Soapbox.
Coming off the international break, RSL fans got a preview of where the team is at in Monday's friendly against English side Manchester United. Were there any surprises, pleasant or otherwise, in the friendly that might be reflected in Wednesday's match?
There were, in fact, pleasant surprises. Strangely, our starting lineup really took it to United for 30 minutes, and they looked excellent doing it. We saw a tactical outlay that was purposeful and started to feel complete, and I think that's reflect by Mike Petke's recent comments about not wanting to put too much on the team too fast.
As a result, we saw players like Sunny and Kyle Beckerman looking as good as they have this season, Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino stretching the defense, and Luis Silva acting as a real forward of some sort. But importantly, we also saw our full backs pushed further forward, with Tony Beltran and Demar Phillips spending a surprising amount of time in the final third.
I'd expect that to continue, given Petke expressed his desire to use the Manchester United friendly as a sort of trial run for his tactical approach against your side. Obviously, there's more on the line in this one — it's not an exaggeration that RSL needs to pick up as many points as possible if they want any chance at playoffs this year — so there is always that to consider.
This has been a rough season for RSL, leaving the side in ninth place in the Western Conference with a stunning -17 goal differential as the season resumes; is that placement an accurate reflection of where the team is currently, talent-wise?
From a talent perspective, that goal differential is hardly representative of who we are. But from a team perspective, from the view of how we've been interacting and gelling, that's absolutely accurate. Our ability to come together for a match was incredibly bad. Nobody was really on the same page. We didn't look like a proper team, and that really hurt us for extended stretches.
I think we've weathered that particular storm, and it really culminated in the demolition of LA Galaxy. Obviously, we can't read too much into that, but it was clear that things are starting to improve inside the locker room and inside the group.
I will have you know, of course, that before our LA Galaxy win, we were at -21 — switch these two matches and it looks even worse. It's been a fun season.
Amidst rumors of an impending trade, Yura Movsysian did not suit up against United on Monday. Have we seen the last of Yura with the claret and cobalt? Is this really just a hip injury? And if Yura indeed does not play on Wednesday, how will that change up the RSL attack?
I really do think it was just a hip injury. If I've learned anything about Mike Petke, it's that he'll be honest about those things, or he'll outright tell you that he can't talk about it, or that he doesn't want to talk about it. There are, of course, still rumblings that Movsisyan is sort of on the outs, but the simple fact is that it's hard to move a player who's making nearly $2 million.
I don't know that he'll be ready to play on Wednesday, but if he is, don't expect him to start. I think Luis Silva has sort of won his position over the last two months, and let me tell you, that's a really strange position we're in.
Oh, and Chad Barrett's getting close to a return. Just thought you'd like to know.
Lineup (4-2-3-1... I think?): Rimando; Beltran, Glad, Horst, Phillips; Beckerman, Sunny; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; Silva