This Saturday, third-seeded Real Salt Lake hosts No. 6 Portland Timbers FC in the first round of the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, the first hump in the club’s attempt to win the MLS Cup for the second time in club history.
The Round 1 match will take place on Saturday, October 19 at 8:00p MT (ESPNews, ESPN Deportes) at Rio Tinto Stadium. Tickets are on sale now at RSL.com or by calling 844.REAL.TIX.
Portland began the season with an egregious schedule, playing their first 12 matches on the road due to construction at their home stadium, Providence Park. In the team’s first six matches the Timbers only earned one point with a 0-5-1 record.
Head Coach Giovanni Savarese quickly turned things around in the middle of the season, leading Portland to secure 42 out of a possible 66 points through 22 games. However, in the last six matches the team struggled to get results, finishing the year 1-2-3.
Throughout the middle section of the season, Portland earned the second-best road record in the Western Conference, securing six wins, only bested by the 2019 Supporter’s Shield winners Los Angeles FC. On the flipside, Real Salt Lake finished the year with a 12-4-1 record at Rio Tinto Stadium, one of only three teams to achieve 12 victories at home. And Portland has played just one road match since August 7, finishing up the regular season with 11 of the final 12 matches at Providence Park.
Regardless of results, one common thread throughout the year has been the team’s offensive ability, one that should always be considered a threat. This season they recorded the third-most shots with 561, more than a hundred more than Real Salt Lake, and registered 52 goals and 52 assists.
Forwards Jeremy Ebobisse and Brian Fernandez led the Timber’s attack, netting 11 goals each, while team captain Diego Valeri scored eight goals and Sebastian Blanco added six. Additionally, Valeri recorded 16 assists to finish second in the league. However, on Saturday Portland will likely be without Fernandez and possibly Valeri who saw decreased minutes in the last four games, not even appearing in the final two.
In between the pipes Portland is led by MLS veteran Steve Clark who was signed off the waivers during the 2018 offseason as a backup to Jeff Attinella, who previously spent time with RSL. After the first seven games this year Clark was named the starter when Antinella suffered a shoulder injury and has since made 84 saves and six shutouts in 24 appearances.
With the new one-and-done playoff format, Saturday’s winner will move on to face No. 7 FC Dallas or No. 2 Seattle Sounders FC. Should RSL beat the Timbers and if Seattle loses, RSL will host FC Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinal on either October 23 or 24.