MLS Regular Season
Real Salt Lake will renew its rivalry with the Portland Timbers on Saturday night, welcoming Will Johnson, Caleb Porter and co. into Rio Tinto Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:
RSL looks to stay unbeaten in 2014
Last weekend’s results left RSL as the lone remaining unbeaten in MLS. Currently sitting at 2-0-4, the Claret-and-Cobalt will be looking to pick up the full three points on Saturday – the first of four home games in RSL’s next six matches – after drawing its last two matches.
Can RSL stay hot against Portland?
A lot has been said about RSL’s dominant history against Portland, and rightfully so. RSL enters Saturday’s match on a 10-game unbeaten run against the Timbers, not having lost to the Cascadia side since the first-ever meeting between the sides, way back in April 2011. The Claret-and-Cobalt was particularly strong against the Timbers in 2013, notching a 4-0-2 record against Portland in all competitions, including a perfect 3-0-0 mark at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Claret-and-Cobalt didn’t lack for goals against the Timbers in 2013, with nine different players scoring a total of 14 goals against the Oregon club in the six meetings across all competitions between the clubs.
Morales and Saborio look to continue success against Timbers
No Real Salt Lake players have as successful a history against Portland as Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio. The dynamic attacking duo has killed the Timbers, with Saborio registering seven goals and one assist in seven career games against Portland and Morales notching four goals and five assists in 10 career matches against the Cascadia club.
"Beckerman's a python, and Bradley's a cobra. One helps his side sort of strangle a game incrementally, and the other one can mesmerize you and figure out exactly where to strike. Either way, you're dead."
-Graham Parker, writer at Grantland and The Guardian
Kyle Beckerman and Michael Bradley: Two of the best central midfielders in MLS, U.S. Men's National Team teammates and stars of Kick TV's most recent MLS Insider piece, "Pair of Aces."
Meetings between Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers have never lacked for excitement, with the two teams producing open-ended, high-scoring matches ever since the Timbers joined MLS in 2011. The meetings went up a notch last year, with then-rookie Portland Head Coach Caleb Porter bringing an RSL-like possession style to the Timbers.
Real Salt Lake has had great success against the Cascadia side, posting a 7-1-3 all-time record against the Timbers across all competitions, with RSL’s sole loss coming in the teams’ first-ever encounter in April 2011. RSL and Portland had a couple of high-stakes matchups last year, meeting in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal on Aug. 7, with the Claret-and-Cobalt pulling off a 2-1 victory to advance to the USOC Final. RSL and the Timbers then went on to meet in the 2013 Western Conference Final series, with RSL defeating Portland 4-2 in the first leg and earning a 1-0 win in the second leg on the road to advance to MLS Cup 2013.
The team truly is the star when it comes to Real Salt Lake’s success against Portland, as nine different RSL players scored against the Timbers in 2013 alone, and 10 current Claret-and-Cobalt players have scored against Portland in their career. Not surprisingly, RSL’s most prolific scorer against Portland is forward Alvaro Saborio, who has seven goals and one assist in seven games against the Oregon side. RSL maestro Javier Morales has also been excellent against Portland, posting four goals and five assists in 10 meetings against the Timbers. And it’s not just all about the goals – seven different RSL players had assists against Portland in 2013, and eight current RSL players have assists against Portland all-time.
Let’s hope RSL can continue its unbeaten streak on Saturday and get even more Claret-and-Cobalt players on the scoreboard.
Here’s a full breakdown of current RSL players with goals and/or assists against the Timbers:
Kyle Beckerman: 1 goal, 4 assists – 9 games
Nat Borchers: 1 goal – 11 games
Robbie Findley: 2 goals, 1 assist – 6 games
Luis Gil: 1 goal, 2 assists – 9 games
Ned Grabavoy: 1 goal – 10 games
Cole Grossman: 1 goal – 1 game
Javier Morales: 4 goals, 5 assists – 10 games
Joao Plata: 1 goal, 3 assists with RSL, 1 assist with Toronto FC – 6 games
Alvaro Saborio: 7 goals, 1 assist – 7 games
Devon Sandoval: 1 goal – 2 games
Chris Schuler: 1 goal – 4 games
Chris Wingert: 1 assist – 10 games
Real Salt Lake owned the Portland Timbers last year, posting a dominant 4-0-2 record in six matches across all competitions against the Cascadia club. RSL and the Timbers will face off for the first time in 2014 on Saturday, when Will Johnson, Caleb Porter and co. will come to Rio Tinto Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. MT kickoff.
The best of the six RSL-Portland games in 2013 came in the Western Conference Final series, which Real Salt Lake won 5-2 on aggregate on the back of a 4-2 win at home on Nov. 10 and a 1-0 win at Portland on Nov. 24. Highlights of those triumphant victories are below. Check them out before Saturday’s big tilt at The RioT.
First Leg: RSL 4-2 Portland
Second Leg: RSL 1-0 (5-2) Portland
MLSsoccer.com is in the midst of running its "Generations" video series, a sequence of videos looking at the past, present and future of MLS's Generation adidas and Homegrown players. RSL midfielder Jordan Allen featured in the latest Generations spot, with the Rochester, N.Y. native talking about his decision to join the Claret-and-Cobalt academy, his decision to go to University of Virginia, signing with the first-team this offseason and more.
Chicago Fire Homegrown Harrison Shipp and San Jose Homegrown Tommy Thompson are also featured in the video. It's an interesting look at three of the top young players in the league. Give it a watch above.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando recently shot a commercial with RSL partner Zions Bank, with the pair playing a little office soccer set to some Samba music.
We think the spot turned out pretty great. Give it a watch above.
Another win for the U.S. U-20’s, another strong performance by a Real Salt Lake player.
Forward Benji Lopez helped the U-20’s to a 3-0 Dallas Cup win over a youth side from Eintracht Frankfurt on Monday, starting and scoring the Americans’ first goal in their victory over the German club. Lopez’s performance came one day after midfielder Jordan Allen notched two assists in the U.S.’s 3-2 win over a River Plate youth side in its Dallas Cup opener on Sunday.
Allen and Lopez were called to the U-20’s last week for the Dallas Cup. The U.S. will play its final Dallas Cup Gordon Jago Super Group match on Wednesday, taking on a youth team from Mexican club Tigres UANL.
— Benji Lopez (@Theonlybenji_11) April 14, 2014
The U.S. currently sits in first place in Bracket C of the Gordon Jago Super Group, three points ahead of second-place River Plate. The three Bracket winners and the top second-place team of the three brackets will advance to the Dallas Cup semifinals, which will be played on Friday.
Real Salt Lake will look to extend its unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, when it will take on Philadelphia Union at 2:00 p.m. MT on ABC 4.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s contest:
Real Salt Lake undefeated against Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia Union have met a total of six times in Major League Soccer history, with the Claret-and-Cobalt never losing to its Eastern Conference foe. RSL has a 2-0-4 record against the Union, with the two sides tying their last two league meetings. Although RSL is undefeated against the Union, the Claret-and-Cobalt have yet to win at PPL Park, tying every match played there. Both of Real Salt Lake’s wins over Philly came at home, with RSL defeating Philadelphia 3-0 in the club’s first ever meeting on May 8, 2010 at Rio Tinto Stadium and claiming a 2-1 win on Sept. 3, 2011 at the RioT.
Attinella likely to fill in for Rimando for second-straight match
With RSL veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando still recovering from a knee injury, backup ‘keeper Jeff Attinella will likely start on Saturday in his absence. The Florida native started against Sporting Kansas City last weekend in his first appearance for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2014, turning in a stellar, eight save performance to keep the shutout and earn a 0-0 draw. The scoreless draw marked Attinella’s second MLS career clean sheet. The 25-year-old made a total of five appearances in 2013, posting a 1-2-1 record and earning one shutout. Rimando missed RSL’s last match against Philadelphia while with the U.S. national team for CONCACAF Gold Cup duty – Josh Saunders started in his place.
The goalkeeper connection – Attinella and MacMath go way back
The relationship between Attinella and Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath goes way back, with the pair first meeting each other during their days at Tampa-area youth club Clearwater Chargers. Attinella and MacMath faced off against each other several times while in high school, with Attinella – then a senior – usually leading Countryside High over MacMath – who was only a freshman – and St. Petersburg HS. Should Attinella play on Saturday, it would mark the first time the Florida-area natives would face off against each other as pros.
Real Salt Lake looks to remain undefeated in 2014
Real Salt Lake enters Saturday’s match undefeated through its first five MLS regular season matches. RSL boasts a 2-0-3 record for a total of nine points, placing the Claret-and-Cobalt second in the Western Conference – four points behind MLS leaders FC Dallas. RSL is just one of two unbeaten teams in MLS, with Dallas – which hosts Seattle on Saturday – currently the only other squad without a loss. Three of RSL’s first five matches have been on the road, with the Claret-and-Cobalt earning a win and two draws as the visiting side. The Claret-and-Cobalt has a win and a draw at home – defeating Toronto FC 3-0 on March 29 and tying LA Galaxy 1-1 in its home opener on March 22.
MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Dan Haiek took a crack at previewing Saturday's tilt between Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union, publishing their thoughts on the match in a "Scouting Report" video on Thursday. Give the preview a watch above - certainly worth the time.