Portland focusing on selves ahead of RSL's visit
PORTLAND, Ore. – On the face of it, the Portland Timbers have the daunting task of going up against Real Salt Lake, the last remaining unbeaten team in MLS, on Saturday at JELD-WEN Field (Apr. 30, 7:30 p.m. PT, ROOT SPORTS / 95.5 The Game, La Pantera 940 AM (ESP) and MLS MatchDay Live).
Seven days since a 3-0 away loss to the LA Galaxy, the Timbers return to play their third game in front of their raucous home crowd. Portland will hope to catch RSL while they are still recovering from a disappointing midweek loss to Mexican club Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final.
“RSL are probably going to come out flying because they’ve got a lot to prove now – that they are a good team and that they just had an off night that night,” Timbers 'keeper Troy Perkins told the club’s website.
Portland will be tested defensively as they try to shore up the lapses and mistakes that have led to a league-worst 13 goals allowed in six games. More than anything, the Timbers will be out erase last week’s loss from their memory and prove they are not soft on defense.
“For us, it’s going to be putting last weekend behind us,” said Perkins. “Obviously, giving up three goals is never a good showing for anyone, so we want to move on, we want to come out and show that we are a good team.
It’s more important for us to really focus on ourselves, make sure we’re ready to play, and come out with the same energy we’ve had in the past three home games. We saw in LA that when we don’t come out flying, teams will pressure and it’s tough to get out of the hole.”
Darlington Nagbe, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 SuperDraft pick, may be in position to make his first start for the Timbers, and the fans at sold out JELD-WEN Field will get their first look at new Designated Player Diego Chará (at right), a holding midfielder from Colombia who’s expected to combine with captain Jack Jewsbury.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, forward Fabian Espindola and two other regular starters will not make the trip to Portland. However, Real Salt Lake will regain the services of midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
Nevertheless, RSL are currently enjoying an 18-game unbeaten streak in the MLS regular season and, with a 4-0 start to the 2011 season, the Claret-and-Cobalt have emerged as early favorites to win the Supporters’ Shield.
Even if Portland can return to a pattern of modest gains – such as they did during the first five games of the season – that may not be enough on Saturday.
“[RSL are] definitely the best team in the league,” said Timbers head coach John Spencer. “For us, we’ve got to come out with that mentality – that we feel that we’re a good team, we’re confident, we’re at home, but we’re the underdog in this game.”