After two disappointing home losses in a row, the Portland Timbers have a chance to change their trajectory today when they face off against their Western Conference foes, Real Salt Lake.
With RSL well above the red line the West, it is vitally important that the Timbers take all three points if they want to claw their way back into the playoff race. Having fallen back into 8th place and only three points ahead of 9th place Sporting Kansas City, the Timbers are rapidly running out of room to reassert themselves as a contender in the Western Conference.
If the Timbers are going to win, however, they will have to do so with some major questions about their back line. Right back Jorge Moreira will return to the fold this week after missing the Timbers‘ 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders weekend due to yellow card accumulation, but the side will likely still be without center backs Julio Cascante, Mo Jadama, and — most importantly — Larrys Mabiala. That means that the Timbers will likely be forced to play the duo of Bill Tuiloma, who has missed much of the season with injuries of his own, and Claude Dielna, who has yet to have a confidence inspiring match in a Timbers kit, at center back.
With the support of Diego Chara and Crithian Paredes, the Timbers’ defense will need to shut down a young and creative attacking group from RSL who have averaged a pair of goals in each of their last five games, which includes a 3-0 loss at the hands of Los Angeles FC. Corey Baird, Damir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino, Sam Johnson, and Albert Rusnak have each managed at least seven combined goals and assists for RSL; and while Rusnak is the clear center of the team with nine goals and five assists, there is no one player for Chara to mark out of the match that will cause RSL to fall apart.
A win today could put the Timbers back above the red line or just let them keep pace with FC Dallas, who snuck into the 7th place spot after the Timbers surrendered it last weekend. More importantly, a win today could signal an end to the Timbers’ struggles at Providence Park and a return to the sort of confidence that propelled them to the MLS Cup final last year. Either way, Real Salt Lake is the perfect sounding board as we try to figure out just how this tumultuous season will end for the Timbers.
Storylines: “Can the Portland Timbers dig themselves out of a funk and secure three very important points at home? Or will another team — this time Real Salt Lake — rain on Portland’s home parade?”
And stop by the Rose City Forecast to make your predictions about today’s match.
Watch it on: KPDX
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
When: Saturday, August 31st at 7:30 p.m. PT
Portland Timbers: 11-11-4, 8th place in the Western Conference, lost 2-1 vs. Seattle Sounders
Real Salt Lake: 13-10-4, 2nd place in the Western Conference, won 2-0 vs. Colorado Rapids