RSL and Portland are set to square off in a huge Western Conference battle on Saturday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt entering the not-so-friendly confines of JELD-WEN Field for an 8:30 p.m. kickoff against the Timbers.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match, which you can catch on CW30:
Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference title hopes hang in the balance
Pretty simple here: Realistically, RSL needs to beat Portland on Saturday night in order to have a shot of winning the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference titles.
The Claret-and-Cobalt wouldn’t be officially eliminated from either race with a draw or loss on Saturday, but – with Portland one point ahead of RSL and playing a very winnable game at Chivas USA in their finale next Saturday – the Utah side probably needs all three points this weekend to have a shot. If RSL beats Portland and wins its regular season finale on Wednesday against Chivas USA at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Utah side would win the regular season Western Conference title.
Even if the team wins its final two matches, RSL would still need a bit of help to win the Shield. New York is one point ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt in the league standings. The Red Bulls would have to lose or tie one of their final two matches – they’re at Houston on Sunday and home against Chicago next week – for RSL to lift the Shield after victories in its final two games.
Here’s an easier version: Root for RSL to win out and New York to lose or draw one of its final two matches. We’ll get into the many other permutations should Saturday’s result dictate such.
This is a little bit gnarly, so we’ll break it down bullet point style. Remember that with the Western Conference being so jumbled – Portland leads with 53 points, RSL is in second with 52, LA and Seattle both have 51, Colorado has 48 and San Jose and Vancouver are on the outside with 47 and 45 – any sort of result would be huge for RSL on Saturday.
Here we go. RSL will clinch a playoff berth this weekend with:
- A win at Portland
- A Colorado loss or tie against Vancouver on Saturday afternoon, regardless of RSL’s result at Portland
- A San Jose loss or tie at LA on Sunday night, regardless of RSL’s result at Portland
RSL can’t officially clinch with a draw at Portland if both Colorado and San Jose win. However, the Claret-and-Cobalt would effectively sew up a sixth-straight postseason berth with just one point at the Timbers. Here’s how:
- A draw at Portland would put RSL at 53 points
- If both San Jose and Colorado win both of their remaining games AND both LA and Seattle finish with more than 53 points AND RSL loses to Chivas USA on Wednesday, RSL and San Jose would finish the year tied for fifth in the West with 53 points
- MLS would then use its tiebreaker system to determine if San Jose or RSL qualified for the playoffs
- The teams would be tied on the first tiebreaker, each having 15 wins
- MLS would then move to the second tiebreaker, which is goals scored. RSL currently has 55 goals and San Jose currently has 33 goals. That looks pretty good for RSL.
Morales suspended; Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio available
RSL will be without one of its most dangerous players on Saturday at Portland, as playmaker Javier Morales will miss the match while serving a one-game suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Morales was instrumental in RSL’s previous two league games against Portland, scoring two goals and notching an assist in MLS action against Portland.
On the plus side, three Real Salt Lake players will be returning to the fold on Saturday, with Captain Kyle Beckerman (U.S.), goalkeeper Nick Rimando (U.S.) and forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) all returning from international duty. Beckerman played 90 minutes for the U.S. in its 3-2 win at Panama on Tuesday while Saborio came off the bench early in the second half and scored a goal in Costa Rica’s 2-1 win over Mexico on the same night.
Real Salt Lake is getting set to take on the Portland Timbers this Saturday night in a huge match at JELD-WEN Field. RSL has played once at JELD-WEN this year, trading punches with the Timbers in a wild match on Aug. 21 that ended 3-3 thanks to Claret-and-Cobalt midfielder Cole Grossman's 93rd minute equalizer.
Check out highlights from that match above. Tune-in to CW30 at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday to see if this weekend's contest lives up to it.
Real Salt Lake needed the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC to tie in order for the Claret-and-Cobalt to remain in first-place in the Western Conference by virtue of the goals scored tiebreaker, and remain in second place in the Supporters’ Shield race. But Portland’s win over Seattle has changed all of that.
With the Timbers’ 1-0 win over Seattle, Real Salt Lake now finds itself in second-place in the West with 52 points, one point behind first-place Portland who leads with 53 points. Seattle is now in third-place with 51 points, one point behind the Claret-and-Cobalt. All three teams are now on even footing with 32 games played by all.
In the Supporters’ Shield race, RSL finds itself in third-place behind the New York Red Bulls and the Portland Timbers. New York leads Portland on the total wins tiebreaker by notching two more wins than the Timbers; both teams are tied with 53 points total.
Sunday’s results now put extra pressure on the Claret-and-Cobalt to record a win against the Portland Timbers when they face each other on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 8:30 p.m. MT at JELD-WEN Field. Saturday’s match will be broadcast live on CW30, ESPN 700 AM and 102.3 La Gran D FM/1600 AM. Real Salt Lake is 1-1-0 against the Portland Timbers in MLS regular season play, and is 2-1-0 this year in all competitions. The last time RSL faced Portland at JELD-WEN Field was on August 21, which ended in a thrilling 3-3 tie. The Claret-and Cobalt have won all their home games against the Timbers this year.
In what has turned out the be one of the tightest playoff races in MLS history, no team in the Western Conference has clinched a playoff berth with two games remaining in the regular season (except LA who have three). A win on Saturday for Real Salt Lake would clinch its sixth-consecutive playoff berth, guaranteeing at least fourth-place in the West. If RSL defeats Portland and Chivas USA on Oct. 23, the Claret-and-Cobalt would win the West.
RSL’s position might become a bit clearer after the LA Galaxy take on the Montreal Impact on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at the StubHub Center at 8:30 p.m. MT. An LA loss would guarantee RSL at least third-place in the West if it takes care of business on Saturday. A win plus a New York Red Bulls loss or tie to the Houston Dynamo on Sunday would allow Real Salt Lake to retake the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race.
What to watch and who to root for:
Wednesday, Oct. 16: LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact, 8:30 p.m. MT – Root for Montreal to regain its winning ways
Saturday, Oct. 19: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m. MT – You know who to root for
Sunday, Oct. 20: Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls, 2:00 p.m. MT – Let’s hope New York continues its notorious road woes with a loss in Texas
The Claret-and-Cobalt won’t be in action, but the entire Real Salt Lake family will be locked into one MLS match this weekend: Sunday’s Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders contest (7:00 p.m. MT; ESPN).
Sunday’s Cascadia Cup game between the Timbers and the Sounders at JELD-WEN Field holds massive Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference title implications, with the result going a long way toward determining whether or not RSL will have a realistic shot at either crown come Monday morning.
Here’s the short story, RSL fans: Root for a tie – hard.
A draw between Portland and Seattle on Sunday would keep RSL in first-place in the West, ahead of Seattle by virtue of the goals scored tiebreaker and up one point on Portland. The Claret-and-Cobalt would remain in second-place in the Supporters’ Shield race, one point behind New York, which is also idle this weekend. RSL, New York, Portland and Seattle will all have two regular season games remaining after this weekend.
A win by either side on Sunday would put RSL in a more precarious position in the Shield and West races. A Seattle victory would put the Sounders in first in both the Shield and Western Conference races, two points ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt, which would drop to second in the West and third in the Shield race. A Portland win would vault the Timbers into first in the West and second in the Supporters’ Shield standings, and would put RSL one point behind the Timbers, in second in the West and third in the battle for the Shield.
Reiterating: A draw between Portland and Seattle would lead to RSL’s clearest past to the Western Conference crown and Supporters’ Shield. A win by either side wouldn’t eliminate RSL from either race, but it would make things significantly tougher for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Do up your favorite knot, tune-in to ESPN, and pull hard for a tie between Portland and Seattle this Sunday.
Real Salt Lake’s Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference hopes got a big boost on Wednesday night, with West rivals Seattle losing to Vancouver, Colorado falling at San Jose and Supporters’ Shield foe Kansas City drawing at Houston to keep the Claret-and-Cobalt in the thick of both races.
Vancouver did RSL a major solid by beating Seattle 4-1, with 18-year-old forward Kekuta Manneh notching a hat trick to help the ‘Caps stun the Sounders at CenturyLink Field. The result keeps RSL in first in the West, one point ahead of Seattle, which now has only one game in hand on the Claret-and-Cobalt. The Sounders will make up that match on Sunday, when they’ll take on Cascadia rival Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field at 7 p.m. MT on ESPN.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) October 10, 2013
While San Jose’s win over Colorado prevented RSL from securing a sixth-straight playoff berth on Wednesday night, the result was still pretty good for Jason Kreis and Co. The Rapids loss keeps Colorado – which is four points behind RSL – off of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s back, making the prospect of securing an all-important top-three seed in the West that much easier.
RSL would’ve preferred a Houston win over Kansas City, but Wednesday’s scoreless draw between the two sides at BBVA Compass Stadium isn’t all bad. Hard-charging Sporting is now dead even with RSL, with both sides posting a 15-10-7 record through 32 games.
Here’s how the big picture looks for RSL following Wednesday’s games:
- RSL needs two points from its two remaining matches (i.e., one win or two draws) to clinch a playoff spot. A San Jose loss or tie or a Colorado loss in either of those clubs' two remaining matches would also lock up a playoff berth for the Claret-and-Cobalt. RSL’s next chance to clinch a playoff berth will come on Oct. 19, when a win at Portland would secure a postseason spot for the club.
- With 52 points through 32 games, the Claret-and-Cobalt sits in first-place in the West, one point ahead of Seattle, which has a game in hand on the Utah side.
- RSL is tied with Sporting Kansas City for second-place in the Supporters’ Shield standings, one point behind the New York Red Bulls for the top spot. RSL, SKC and New York have all played 32 games, while Seattle and Portland – which are two and three points behind New York, respectively – have both played 31 games.
- Real Salt Lake is tied for third with Kansas City in the points per game standings. New York leads the league with 1.66 points per game, Seattle is in second with 1.65 and RSL and SKC are in third with 1.63.
- Pending results in Sunday’s Portland-Seattle contest and LA’s home game against Montreal on Oct. 16, RSL could potentially clinch a top-two seed in the West with a win at Portland on Oct. 19.
It’s setting up to be a wild last month. Buckle up.
Most teams around the league struggle against MLS’s three Cascadian clubs. It’s not hard to see why: Seattle, Portland and Vancouver all have deep pockets, talented rosters, strong support, and play on difficult-to-deal with turf fields.
Of course, most teams around MLS aren’t Real Salt Lake.
The Claret-and-Cobalt has been dominant against the three Cascadian clubs over the last two seasons, posting a 10-2-4 record in all competitions against the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps since the start of 2012. RSL is unbeaten against the three sides so far this year, posting 4-0-2 record through four home games and two road matches against them in all comps.
RSL has also been very solid when playing on the road at Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, currently riding a four-game unbeaten streak in Cascadia. The Claret-and-Cobalt has a combined 2-1-4 road mark at the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps since the start of 2012.
Jason Kreis and Co. will put their solid run against the Cascadian clubs on the line this Friday, when they take on Seattle Sounders FC in a battle of the West’s top two teams at CenturyLink Field. Friday’s match – which has huge implications for both the Supporters’ Shield race and MLS Cup Playoff seeding – will kick off at 8:00 p.m. MT and will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
Should RSL earn a fifth-straight result in the Pacific Northwest on Friday, it'll have to do it in front of a huge crowd. Seattle – which usually restricts attendance at CenturyLink Field to a little under 40,000 – has opened up the entire stadium for Friday’s affair, with full capacity reaching upwards of 67,000.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) September 11, 2013
One last note: RSL’s 18 road points this year are tied for tops in the league with Kansas City, while Seattle enters Friday’s match on a team record 12-game regular season unbeaten streak at home.
Something could very well give on Friday. Make sure you tune-in to see it all unfold.
Real Salt Lake again proved their offensive prowess on Friday, getting four goals to down the Portland Timbers 4-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Friday’s match:
Friday’s 4-2 win and the team’s 4-0 win over Columbus on Aug. 24 mark the first time in RSL history that the team has scored four or more goals in consecutive regular season matches. The Claret-and-Cobalt has now scored a total of 11 goals in its last three matches, with seven of those goals coming against a usually-stingy Portland side.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio scored his tenth goal during MLS play on Friday – only his thirteenth appearance of the season. Saborio’s 0.83 goals per 90 minutes is tops in MLS among players with more than eight games played.
The Real Salt Lake fan base flexed its muscles once more on Friday, with the capacity crowd of 20,252 marking the fifth sellout at Rio Tinto Stadium this year.
By scoring on Friday, RSL midfielder Luis Gil became the sixth Claret-and-Cobalt player to reach the five goal plateau this year. Gil joins Saborio, midfielder Javier Morales, midfielder Ned Grabavoy, forward Robbie Findley and forward Olmes Garcia as the six RSL players who have found the back of the net five or more times during MLS play. RSL only had two players hit the five goal mark in 2012.
Friday’s win marked the club’s 14th victory of the season, most in the league. Real Salt Lake is now one win away from reaching the 15-win, 50-point plateau for a fourth-consecutive year, something that’s never been done in league history. The Utah side is in good position to also set a new franchise record for wins in a season – the record is seventeen, held by the 2012 team.
With his bicycle kick goal past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts on Friday, Morales tied his career-high with seven goals on the season. Morales’ seven goals are good for second on the team – he leads RSL with ten assists in MLS play.
Real Salt Lake’s four goals in Friday’s match increased its league-leading goal total to 52 goals during the 2013 season. The L.A. Galaxy are a distant second, having scored 43 goals on the season.
Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata notched two assists on Friday, giving him a total of eight assists in MLS play, good for fifth in the league. The 21-year-old Ecuadorian finds himself on the assist leaderboard despite only starting in 16 of the club’s 28 games.
It seems like only yesterday that we faced Portland Timbers, and indeed, it sort of was. Or last week, but that's somewhat like yesterday.
Timbers have assumed relatively the same approach match-by-match, and that they do is a testament to Caleb Porter's belief in tactical consistency. By and large, that's a belief shared by Jason Kreis, who has been one of the most consistent coaches in MLS in recent memory. But Jason Kreis has this season showed a newfound tactical flexibility without sacrificing that belief, and he's changed the shape with relative frequency. The beauty, though, is that no matter how he's changed the shape, the approach and philosophy has remained the same.
With that in mind, Jason Kreis could deploy his side with a different shape to make more difficult the jobs of Porter and crew.
4-2-1-3: Rimando; Beltran, Borchers, Salcedo, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy; Morales; Plata, Saborio, Findley
Good: In this shape, we'd see Plata and Findley tasked with keeping busy Portland's fullbacks, Harrington and Powell, on the left and the right, respectively. Those two generally are important players, as Porter is well aware of the same thing as Kreis: To succeed in an attacking system with no focus on long ball antics, getting one or even both full backs involved in the attack is essential. By pushing back on those two, a big part of the Portland attack is mitigated.
Bad: We lose something in midfield pressure, leaving Grabavoy and Beckerman to carry more of the pressing weight than they otherwise would. If Portland plays a packed midfield, there's a risk this could get overrun.
4-3-2-1: Rimando, Beltran, Borchers, Salcedo, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Grossman; Gil, Morales; Saborio
Good: Here, we have introduced an additional midfielder to the mix. I've pointed to Cole Grossman as the option, because we have here three midfielders involved in defending. This would mitigate any risk of the midfield being overrun. Gil and Morales would both play in a wider arrangement, and perhaps Grabavoy would step further forward to fill in the gaps. Saborio is left as the sole striker, largely to play the midfield into the attack, which would be essential.
Bad: We lose a wide man in attack, which has been important for us. When we have a striker on the wing, we introduce a more dynamic attacking option that forces the defense to rethink their plans. Against an attacking Portland Timbers side, there should be space there — it would be good for us to take advantage of that.
4-4-2: Rimando, Beltran, Borchers, Salcedo, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Gil, Morales; Plata, Findley
Good: Rather than taking the hold-up approach with Saborio, which brings us plenty of joy, we could give him a rest and allow him an opportunity off the bench, leaving Plata and Findley as the starting strikers. Those two would be tasked with both going wide, leaving the center for the midfield to run into — perhaps they'd start in a central position and move wide. It's difficult to say. This would give us plenty of attacking width and would surely be strong in transition.
Bad: Well, we'd lack a player to hold up the ball, which we've done before. If, as I picture it, we push Plata and Findley into wide positions, we'd be found sorely lacking in the middle, too, I'm afraid. In essence, it could end up looking like a poor parody of a strikerless system.
MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Dan Haiek took a look at tonight's RSL-Portland matchup on their always interesting feature, The Scouting Report. Give it a watch above.
Real Salt Lake will take on the Portland Timbers for the third time in 24 days on Friday, when it will host the Cascadia club in a nationally-televised match at 8:00 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL is unbeaten against Portland this year, beating the Timbers 2-1 in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 7 before scoring a 93rd minute goal to tie 3-3 at Portland on Aug. 21.
Highlights from both of those matches are above. Check them out.