KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Timbers vs. Best Defensive Side in MLS
One single goal.
That is the sum total of what the parsimonious Real Salt Lake team has allowed in this 2011 season. While the team is still eager to move past what was, by all accounts, a crushing loss to Monterrey at home in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, RSL’s MLS campaign has been an undefeated success.
The team's stringent defensive reputation is a pillar of the team’s makeup seeing as last year, the Claret and Cobalt led the league in fewest goals against conceding only 20 over the 30 game season.
Though speculation is running rampant about who head coach Jason Kreis will bring to Portland given the quick turnaround from Wednesday’s game, the squad has such skilled depth that it's clear that regardless who they bring, they won't be looking to give up goals easily.
In the words of Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle, they are the “best defensive side in MLS.” That team defense is, not surprisingly, Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of The Match.
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Best Defensive Side in MLS
While questions remain about who will be in the starting lineup for RSL, it’s a pretty fair bet that captain Kyle Beckerman, who missed Wednesday’s final due to yellow card accumulation, will be directing the Salt Lake approach. His vision and ball distribution was missed against Monterrey and he will be a difficult obstacle for the Timbers attack. Moreover, Salt Lake defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers were voted 1-2 in the 2010 MLS Defender of the Year voting. To say that the team is talented would be an understatement.
Head coach John Spencer takes a very direct approach with his offense utilizing speedy wingbacks flying up and down the field overlapping with the midfield all trying to push the ball into the box for the strikers. Defensively, however, the team has been inconsistent—at best—and will need to be very cautious going against a very deep Real Salt Lake side who can utilize their excellent defense and ball control to slip through a potentially over-extended Portland team.
Working in the Timbers favor, however, is the recent arrival of new Designated Player and central midfielder Diego Chará. His MLS career being all of 45 minutes old after entering as a second half substitute against the LA Galaxy last week, Chara’s speed and ability to move box-to-box could prove to be a new weapon not only to the Timbers attack but also help provide added stability in defense. Could Chara’s past Deportes Tolima experiences with fellow Colombian Jorge Perlaza help unlock the RSL defensive vault? On Saturday night, we’ll find out.