Matchday Preview: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake at JELD-WEN Field - October 19, 2013
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs REAL SALT LAKE
JELD-WEN FIELD, Portland, Ore.
Oct. 19, 2013 (WEEK 34, MLS Game #311)
7:30 p.m. PT (ROOT SPORTS; 750 AM The Game)
A massive game in the Western Conference is ahead on Saturday evening as the Portland Timbers play host to Real Salt Lake. Both teams can secure their places in the MLS Cup Playoffs with the right results from the weekend matches – but also at stake is the conference lead and the Supporters' Shield. The Timbers lead the West by a point following their 1-0 win at Seattle last weekend; RSL return to action in a tie for second place, coming off a 1-1 home draw with FC Dallas two weekends ago.
The Portland Timbers stretched their late-season undefeated run to six matches, defeating arch-rival Seattle Sounders FC 1-0 on Sunday evening at JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers now lead the Western Conference with 53 points from 32 matches.
The game’s only goal came just before halftime. A Jack Jewsbury free kick deflected to an open Kalif Alhassan, and he fired a missile from about 16 yards out past Marcus Hahnemann in the Sounders FC goal.
Sounders FC ended the game a man down after hard foul on Timbers forward Darlington Nagbe in the 73rd minute, which resulted in Sounders captain Osvaldo Alonso being shown red by referee Hilario Grajeda for an elbow to the face of Portland's Will Johnson.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter made one change to the team that played to a 2-2 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. Jose Valencia came into the side with Rodney Wallace on international duty.
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-3-3): Donovan Ricketts - Jack Jewsbury, Pa Modou Kah, Mamadou Danso, Michael Harrington - Diego Chara, Will Johnson, Kalif Alhassan (Sal Zizzo 86) - Darlington Nagbe, Maximiliano Urruti (Frederic Piquionne 84), Jose Adolfo Valencia (Ben Zemanski 67).
The Timbers extended their unbeaten streak to six games, the second-longest in the club’s MLS history, after their 15-game undefeated run earlier this season.
“I thought we started the game well again, got the first goal again, that’s now four games in a row where we’ve gotten the first goal,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. “I thought we managed, overall, the game very well, especially at the end. I thought we had moments where we played some very good football. We had our foot on the ball, we possessed the ball and had some nice combination play.”
With the victory, the Timbers moved back atop the Western Conference standings, for the first time since June 23 (when they were tied atop the division). They can clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a point from the RSL match, or the failure of San Jose or Colorado to win over the weekend.
Kalif Alhassan scored his third goal of the league campaign, all coming over the last nine matches, since Aug. 21.
“There have been so many guys that have transformed as players. … Kalif, it’s not just on ball, it’s his defending. Watch how hard the kid works. He didn’t even know the word defend, I don’t think. I think it’s a product of having these guys bought in,” said Porter.
Said midfielder Will Johnson: "He seems to get big goal in big games for us and that's great. He's evolving as a player, he's defending more and he's becoming a more complete player. From time to time, he produces something very special in the box and tonight you can't put a price on a guy that can finish like that in the box. That's the ultimate prize in the game we play.”
Jose Valencia made his first start since Sept. 14, coming into a wide role on the left with Rodney Wallace on World Cup qualifying duty with Costa Rica.
“I think we've said throughout the course of the year, it's not just the first 11 guys. It's a deep, deep team, probably one of the deepest teams I've ever played on in terms of when guys step out for international duty or injuries another guy is ready and willing to step into that role. They've gotten chances and done very well with them,” defender Jack Jewsbury said.
The Timbers kept a clean sheet for the fourth time in their six-game undefeated run. Donovan Ricketts recorded his 12th shutout, tying him for the MLS lead along with Philadelphia’s Zac MacMath and Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
- “I think we defended well. Like I said, we dodged a few bullets, set pieces. Ricketts made a few saves again, surprise, surprise. But I think overall, they didn’t have a ton of good looks from the run of play,” said Porter. “We still need to do better on set pieces, box defending, late, when they dump some balls in. The coach in me wants to still get those things cleaned up, and those are things we will get cleaned up, and we will address even though we won the game.”
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake return to action coming off a 1-1 home draw with FC Dallas on Oct. 5 at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL is in second place in the Western Conference with 52 points from 31 games.
Real were a man down after just 17 minutes when Abdoulie Mansally was sent off by referee Hilario Grajeda after a late, hard tackle on Jackson.
But the home side was able to take the lead in the 60th minute when Alvaro Saborio got on the end of a long, bouncing ball cleared toward the Dallas area, held off three Dallas defenders and won just enough space to fire a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
But the visitors pulled even 12 minutes later. Substitute Je-Vaughn Watson raced down the left wing and hit a ball across the middle that goalkeeper Nick Rimando could only parry to Kenny Cooper, who took one touch before poking it into the back of the net.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis made eight changes to the team that defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1-0 at BC Place. Only center back Chris Schuler, fullback Abdoulie Mansally and midfielder Luis Gil remained in the team.
- REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Abdoulie Mansally (ejected 17) - Luis Gil, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy - Javier Morales (Yordany Alvarez 81) - Robbie Findley (Lovel Palmer 21), Alvaro Saborio (Olmes Garcia 85).
RSL return to action following a two-week layoff from game play, after the 1-1 draw vs. FC Dallas on Oct. 5. The last time they had a break of that length, after the last meeting with Portland (a 4-2 win Aug. 30), they lost their next two matches. “We didn't come back sharp from the last break,” defender Nat Borchers said. “So we really need a good week of training.”
The only time the Timbers were in first place in the Western Conference this season, they were tied with Real Salt Lake (following the games of June 23). Since the start of July, RSL had held the top spot in the West for all but one week, before Portland’s win in Seattle.
“This is what starts rivalries,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said. “Really stressful matches that mean something. Somebody taking the lead in the conference at that time or an Open Cup game.”
The visit to Portland also concludes RSL’s Cascadia tour over the last month. RSL’s last two away matches have been at Seattle (a 2-0 loss Sept. 13) and Vancouver (a 1-0 win Sept. 28).
Alvaro Saborio scored his 11th goal of the season, his first since Aug. 30, in netting the lone goal vs. FC Dallas. Saborio has scored at least 11 goals in each of his four MLS seasons.
“He’s big-time, just big-time. I thought he had a really nice night. Everything he did with the ball was fantastic ñ his touches, his holding [the ball] up for our players to get forward, the run he made and to get the play finished off was great,” said Kreis. “We’re really pleased with how he played, just in time to send him back to Costa Rica.”
Luis Gil played the full match in a midfield role for RSL, the first time since April he’s played the full 90 minutes in back-to-back matches.
“Luis is in really good form, and has been since before the Vancouver game, where he was electric,” Kreis said. “I was really disappointed not to have him for the Open Cup Final and I really think he would have made a difference. Tonight, again, he put in a ton of work defensively, and was so very close to doing really special things.”
Chris Schuler made his second consecutive league start after a nearly five-month layoff because of injury, partnering with Nat Borchers in central defense.
“I thought he was super. He was Johnny-on-the-spot on a few crosses in the first half, and in the second half he was calm enough to adjust the ball back to his ‘keeper in the [six-yard-box]. He looks like the old Chris Schuler,” Kreis said.
Said Borchers: “I felt the defensive effort was good. Everyone worked their butts off from Saborio to the midfielders to the backs. We were down a man for 75 minutes and that’s always tough. There’s always going to be situations where things break down, but I thought that we covered well for each other and worked our butts off.”
- Real will be without Javier Morales for the trip to Portland, suspended with yellow card accumulation. “Javi's a great individual player,” Ned Grabavoy said. “A guy that can unlock things kind of out of nowhere. I don't know what the change will be, but obviously we all need to try to pick things up in the midfield and try to create some chances and be dangerous in the final third. Because that's really what Javier does for us.”
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. AR1 (bench): Adam Wienckowski; AR2 (opposite): Brian Poeschel; 4th: Drew Fischer
MLS Career: 243 games; FC/gm: 25.6; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 60; pens: 55
DISABLED LIST: POR: Mikael Silvestre (season-ending injury); Ryan Miller (season-ending injury); Brent Richards (season-ending injury) … RSL: Rich Balchan; Benji Lopez
SUSPENDED: RSL: Abdoulie Mansally (through Oct. 23); RSL: Javier Morales (caution accumulation; through Oct. 20)
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: POR: Pa Modou Kah, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Ben Zemanski … RSL: Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Olmes Garcia, Chris Wingert
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: POR: Diego Chara, Will Johnson, Rodney Wallace … RSL: Lovel Palmer, Yordany Alvarez, Carlos Salcedo
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
ALL-TIME (7 meetings): Real 4 wins, 16 goals … Timbers 1 win, 10 goals … Ties 2
AT PORTLAND (3 meetings): Timbers 1 win, 6 goals … Real 1 win, 6 goals … Ties 1
- The teams are meeting for the third time in league play this season. They reached a wild 3-3 draw Aug. 21 at JELD-WEN Field as RSL’s Cole Grossman scored deep in stoppage time, then Javier Morales and Luis Gil each had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 Real victory Aug. 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium. The teams also played in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal Aug. 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium, a 2-1 RSL victory.
- The Timbers have won once in seven league meetings all-time – a 1-0 win in the first encounter between the clubs, April 30, 2011 in Portland.
- The teams also played in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal Aug. 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Alvaro Saborio scored in the seventh minute and Joao Plata netted in the 78th to lead RSL to a 2-1 victory; Diego Valeri scored a late stoppage time goal for Portland.
- Coaches record: Caleb Porter vs. RSL: P2 W0 L1 D1… Jason Kreis vs. POR: P7 W4 L1 D2
LAST MEETING (MLS)
- Real were two goals ahead before the match was fully a quarter-hour old. In the ninth minute, a crisp passing sequence led to the opener, with Joao Plata one-timing a pass through the right side of the box to Luis Gil who clinically finished inside the far post. Six minutes later it was Plata who raced past a defender and hammered a left-footed shot past 'keeper Donovan Ricketts, off the far post, and into the net.
- The Timbers pulled a goal in the 31st minute after Michael Harrington set off on a storming, 50-yard run up the field before laying off to Darlington Nagbe, who scorched a low shot from distance past Nick Rimando.
- In first-half stoppage time, Timbers midfielder Ben Zemanski saw a straight red from referee Baldomero Toledo for a high challenge on Ned Grabavoy.
- RSL took advantage with two goals by the three-quarter mark. It was piece of brilliance from Morales in the 55th minute, twisting his body to hit a bicycle kick from a corner kick that flew back across the goal and bounced in off the post. Alvaro Saborio then flicked home a free kick from Morales to make the score 4-1.
- Sal Zizzo provided the final scoreline when he knocked home a rebound in the area from a Rimando save.
- REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Luis Gil (Sebastian Velasquez 72), Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy - Javier Morales - Joao Plata (Robbie Findley 61), Alvaro Saborio.
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (3-4-1-2): Donovan Ricketts - Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Rauwshan McKenzie, Michael Harrington - Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, Ben Zemanski (ejected 47+), Rodney Wallace - Diego Valeri (Alvas Powell 32) - Ryan Johnson (Jose Valencia 46), Darlington Nagbe (Sal Zizzo 74)