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Storylines to Watch: RSL at Portland Timbers

18 October 1:43 pm

Storylines to Watch: RSL at Portland Timbers

By Sam Stejskal

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.

Playoff Scenarios

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.