MatchDay Preview: Portland takes on Real Salt Lake in Utah
Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers bring down the curtain on the 2011 regular season when they meet Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real come into the game tied for third in the Western Conference after a scoreless draw at the Colorado Rapids; they must at least match the result of FC Dallas in San Jose if they are to avoid a wild card game. By kickoff, the Timbers narrowly missed out on qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs as an expansion club, eliminated after New York’s win Thursday after a 1-1 draw at D.C. United kept them in the chase the night before.
The Portland Timbers kept their bid for a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs into the final week, gaining a 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Wednesday evening at RFK Stadium. The Timbers have 43 points from 33 games, in sixth place in the Western Conference.
- Portland struck first in the 24th minute. Defender Rodney Wallace provided the service from the left, looping in a cross that found the head of Kenny Cooper, and he nodded home past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid at the near post.
- United drew even in the 72nd minute. Dwayne De Rosario received a Josh Wolff pass with his back to goal at the top of the box, pivoted on defender Eric Brunner, and unleashed a left-footed shot that beat Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins inside his right post.
- That set the stage for some late drama as United tried to stay alive. D.C.'s Blake Brettschneider had a possible game-winning goal waved off for offside, then De Rosario beat Perkins to a flick and rounded the 'keeper, only to have a sure goal blocked by Brunner. Deeper into stoppage time Joseph Ngwenya had a last-gasp effort saved by Perkins, who then was able to spring up and block the follow-up effort as well.
- Timbers coach John Spencer made three changes to the team that suffered a 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo at JELD-WEN Field. Rodney Wallace came in at left back for Mike Chabala, and James Marcelin and Eric Alexander came into the midfield for the injured Sal Zizzo and Darlington Nagbe.
PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-2-3-1): Troy Perkins - Lovel Palmer, Mamadou Danso, Eric Brunner, Rodney Wallace (Mike Chabala 79) - James Marcelin, Diego Chara - Eric Alexander (Brian Umony 63), Jack Jewsbury, Kalif Alhassan - Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 84)
The Timbers would have survived to the final weekend regardless of the result in Washington, but New York’s narrow home win Thursday evening means they have been eliminated from contention for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Two teams were just gambling trying to get that win because both of us felt that we needed it. [D.C. United] probably needed it a little bit more than us obviously because they had to win to keep their season alive. We have to go to Salt Lake this weekend and try to get a result there,” said Timbers head coach John Spencer.
The Timbers uncorked 22 total attempts at goal, a season-high. “[D.C United] was coming out leaving four or five guys up high and just trying to defend with three or four guys. We knew it was coming. It was a big hectic and a bit crazy, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” said goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
“A point on the road is a point on the road, but now we just have to go and hopefully the result [Thursday] goes our way and we can go and get a result against Salt Lake,” said Perkins.
The Timbers have taken points from back-to-back road games for the first time in their inaugural campaign, and are 1-1-2 in their last four games away from JELD-WEN Field, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Oct. 2) and drawing Philadelphia (Sept. 10) and D.C. United.
Kenny Cooper has scored the last three goals Portland has netted, and has hit the back of the net in four of the last six games. The Timbers have taken points from each of those four games (2-0-2).
“We got off to a good start going up 1-0 into halftime. Obviously we wanted to get three points out of this game, we’ll take the one point and keep pushing forward and keep believing and continuing with the same attitude and approach that we applied to the game tonight,” said Cooper.
With Darlington Nagbe and Sal Zizzo out of the lineup through injury, Spencer changed his tactics, moving Jack Jewsbury higher into the midfield and putting out Cooper as a target striker. Defender Rodney Wallace made his first start since Aug. 17 at Sporting KC.
“I think this team has a lot of depth. We lost two quality players in Darlington [Nagbe] and Sal [Zizzo] not being here, but Eric Alexander stepped in and did a fantastic job. Rodney [Wallace] came in and played incredible and had a good assist,” said Cooper. “So, this team is really strong and really deep and is capable of doing different things and playing in different formations.”
- The Timbers were looking to become the fourth expansion team (created from an expansion draft) to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs, joining the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion in 1998, and Seattle Sounders FC in 2009.
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake put an end to their losing skid at four games, playing to a scoreless draw with the Colorado Rapids on Friday evening at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. RSL is in third place in the Western Conference, with 52 points from 33 matches.
- The Rapids held the better of the chances in the hard-fought rivalry match. They had 12 attempts at goal, and Real goalkeeper Nick Rimando was called upon to make four saves.
- RSL by contrast did not have a single attempt on the goal protected by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens. The teams combined for 36 fouls for the game.
- RSL head coach Jason Kreis made four changes to the team that dropped a 3-0 decision to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. Robbie Russell came in to the back four for Chris Schuler, Yordany Alvarez started in midfield in place of Ned Grabavoy, and Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio returned as the strike partnership, replacing Collen Warner and Paulo Jr.
- REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Andy Williams, Yordany Alvarez, Luis Gil (Jean Alexandre 93+) - Javier Morales - Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.
Real Salt Lake played to a draw for the first time since July 4 in their scoreless result with Colorado last weekend. In their 16 league games since, they were 8-8.
“We’ve got so many things going wrong I think it’s important to try to focus on one thing and build from that. For me that was this week, competing as a team, showing some pride and getting back to all the defensive details that we built this team upon,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. “So to see them walk out of (Colorado) with a nil-nil draw, shutout, that means something to us and we’ll look to build on it in the next week.”
RSL put an end to their losing slide at four games, one short of the MLS season-long and the club’s longest since 2007.
“That’s what we needed,” said Kreis. “We needed to start from the foundation of how we built this team. We needed to get back to the basics. We needed to get back to the details of defending together as a unit.”
Real recorded their 14th shutout of the season, level with the LA Galaxy for the most in MLS. For Nick Rimando, it was his 13th clean sheet of the season, taking over the league lead from FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
“We keep on saying we need to get back to getting our zeros and shutouts and just pay attention to details. We took a look at tape this week and I think we pointed out a lot of things we weren’t doing right and I think we corrected (in Colorado),” said Rimando. “It’s definitely a plus and I want to say it feels like a win but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
For only the second time in the club’s seven-year history, Real were held without a shot on goal for the full 90 minutes. The other occasion also occurred at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, on May 2, 2009 in a 0-2 defeat.
“I think it’s something we don’t really need to worry about. I think we just keep our group out there together and get some more time for our attacking-minded players like Javier [Morales], Fabian [Espindola] and [Alvaro] Saborio spending more time together,” said Kreis. “We won’t have to deal with international call-ups, I don’t think we withstood any suspensions and I don’t think we withstood any injuries so perhaps a little consistency will help us next week.”
With a victory, Real will be assured of finishing third in the Western Conference and avoiding a midweek wild card game next week. RSL and FC Dallas can finish tied for third on points, but Real hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their win and draw in the two head-to-head meetings this season.
- “[We] now put ourselves in a position where we control our own destiny at home. We pick up the three points, and we guarantee ourselves third place in the conference, third place in the league, and that’s exactly where we need to be right now,” Kreis said.
REFEREE: Silviu Petrescu. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Hector Vergara; 4th: Allen Chapman
MLS Career: 38 games; FC/gm: 28.0; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 7; pens: 5
Sports Medicine Oregon INJURY REPORT:
- REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: MF Nelson Gonzalez (R foot fracture); DOUBTFUL: DF Tony Beltran (L adductor strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Will Johnson (R ankle sprain); PROBABLE: FW Chris Agorsor (L hamstring strain); MF Ned Grabavoy (L adductor strain); GK Kyle Reynish (R ankle bone spur)
- PORTLAND TIMBERS - OUT: GK Adin Brown (concussion); DF Kevin Goldthwaite (L knee ACL rupture); FW Eddie Johnson (concussion); MF Darlington Nagbe (R knee); FW Spencer Thompson (R knee); MF Sal Zizzo (L knee strain); PROBABLE: DF David Horst (L groin strain); GK Troy Perkins (R hip soreness); FW Jorge Perlaza (lower back soreness)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: RSL: Kyle Beckerman (through Oct. 23)
- ALL-TIME (1 meeting): Real 0 wins, 0 goals...Timbers 1 win, 1 goal...Ties 0
- When the teams met for the first time, Kenny Cooper scored the only goal of the game to give the Timbers the victory, April 20 at JELD-WEN Field.
- Coaches record: Jason Kreis v POR: P1 W0 L1 D0 à John Spencer vs. RSL: P1 W1 L0 D0
LAST MEETING (MLS)
- 4/30: POR 1, RSL 0 (Cooper 22)
- The game's lone goal came in the 22nd minute. Freed down the left, Kalif Alhassan crossed a ball to the front of the RSL net and from a crowd Kenny Cooper knocked a short volley with his right foot past Real 'keeper Nick Rimando.
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-4-2): Troy Perkins - Jeremy Hall, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace - Darlington Nagbe (Sal Zizzo 82), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan - Kenny Cooper (Ryan Pore 92+), Jorge Perlaza (James Marcelin 74).
REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran (Ned Grabavoy 70), Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert - Collen Warner (Andy Williams 46), Kyle Beckerman, Jean Alexandre (Will Johnson 46), Javier Morales - Arturo Alvarez, Alvaro Saborio.