Survival of the Fittest
Real Salt Lake is concluding a stretch of five matches in 15 days that has taken the team all over North America. Starting with a road match against D.C. United, RSL jetted down to Guatemala for the first Group Stage match in CONCACAF Champions League before briefly returning home. A quick trip to Vancouver to face the Whitecaps was followed by the semifinal match of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in Kansas City before finally returning home to face the Timbers on Saturday.
In total, the team traveled over 11,000 miles to three different countries in four different time zones and now Head Coach Jeff Cassar will put his best foot forward with the players that have endured that journey.
Real Salt Lake has 287 straight shutout minutes against Portland across all competitions. The last goal RSL allowed was in a 3-1 defeat against the Timbers on June 4, 2014, when former RSL midfielder Will Johnson converted a penalty kick against 10-man Salt Lake.
That bodes well for the home side. However, it’s also a Salt Lake team that has given up 13 goals in the last four matches across all competitions. Which RSL defense will show up at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night?
From The Booth
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar was dismissed during the club’s last MLS match, a 4-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC last Saturday at BC Place. That means he won’t be eligible to be on the bench tonight against the Timbers.
In the previous match when Cassar was banned from the sidelines, Assistant Coach Daryl Shore joined with Ted Eck and Tyrone Marshall to guide the squad to a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on July 18.
Argentina On My Mind
While Juan Manuel Martinez has yet to join Real Salt Lake, the matchup between RSL and Portland will still feature plenty of Argentine representation. Javier Morales and Sebastian Jaime have been key to RSL’s offensive explosion in recent weeks. In his last seven MLS matches, Jaime has four goals and two assists while Morales has three goals and six assists in his last nine matches.
On the other side, the Timbers have four players from Argentina on their roster. Midfielder Diego Valeri has been named to the MLS Best XI each of the last two years while Maximiliano Urruti and the newly-signed Lucas Melano add scoring punch to the attack. Meanwhile, defender Norberto Papparato has anchored a solid Timbers defense in limited action behind the resilient starting tandem of Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell.