Real Salt Lake To Host Timbers In Biggest Home Game Of Recent Rio Tinto Stadium History
SALT LAKE CITY – The stakes have never been higher for Real Salt Lake as they prepare to close out their Major League Soccer regular season this week with a home date with Portland before closing on the road against Sporting Kansas City.
To make matters more challenging for Real Salt Lake, the Portland Timbers will enter the fixture with a weeks rest, whereas Real Salt Lake last played four days ago.
Both games will have serious implications on the immediate playing future of the club as the fight for a post-season position intensifies. Real Salt Lake currently sits in the eighth position in the Western Conference, two points shy of the seventh-placed Vancouver Whitecaps, and one point clear of the ninth-placed LAFC. However, that will likely change prior to Real Salt Lake’s fixture against Portland as Vancouver and LAFC square off this evening (Tuesday, November 2).
Furthermore, the immediate future of interim manager Pablo Mastroeni will also likely be directly impacted following the results of the final two matches. It is no secret that if Mastroeni guides Real Salt Lake into the post-season and then on a playoff run the job will be his on a full-time basis. The front office will have no other choice but to hire Mastroeni if he can take Real Salt Lake deep into the MLS playoffs.
But if Real Salt Lake does not qualify for the playoffs the conversation takes an entirely different turn. A missed playoff appearance for Mastroeni may be all that the Real Salt Lake front office needs to hire a manager from elsewhere.
All focus and attention are on Portland this Wednesday evening. The Portland game looms as the most winnable game left on Real Salt Lake’s schedule, simply due to the fact that it is being played at Rio Tinto Stadium.
A win against Portland and Real Salt Lake’s chances of making the playoffs rise to 95% from the 60% chance it currently has entered the fixture according to SportsClubStats.com.
What To Expect
Real Salt Lake must expect to control the vast majority of the possession. Portland is not overly interesting in controlling the tempo of the game, rather, Portland will be looking to cause the most disruption on the counter-attack.
During the last encounter between the two sides, Portland ended up winning 6-1. However, Real Salt Lake had more shots than Portland. During that fixture Real Salt Lake were unable to capitalize on opportunities in front of goal, while the Timbers on the other-hand, made the most out of every one of their scoring chances.
Real Salt Lake captain Albert Rusnák and leading goalscorer Damir Kreilach echoed each others sentiments during media availability as both are expecting Portland to sit back, and force Real Salt Lake to work their way through them. Then, when the time is right, Portland will look to counter-attack with speed and intent.
However, Real Salt Lake is at a point in the season where they cannot afford to not have any structure behind the ball anymore. They must ensure that if and when they turn the ball over that they have enough bodies behind the ball to limit any serious damage.
Rusnák hinted at a slight tactical adjustment that will likely help in that regard.
Real Salt Lake is healthy entering the fixture. Toni Datkovic and Marcelo Silva are questionable as they continue to recover from muscle injuries, neither made the trip to Dallas last week. Zack Farnsworth remains as the only player unavailable for selection as he continues to recover from his season ending injury.
Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening from Rio Tinto Stadium.
The fixture will mark the return of former captain and club legend Kyle Beckerman as the club celebrates the career of their once stoic leader. Beckerman will be signing autographs and taking photos with fans at the U of U Health Plaza starting at 6:30 p.m. He will also be recognized at midfield prior to the game.
The match will be available to watch on ESPN 2.
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