The Buzzsaw: Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake
Last Match Recap
The Timbers needed a win, and they got one. As far as home wins go, this wasn’t the prettiest or most exciting, but Fanendo Adi’s early second-half redirection of Diego Valeri’s shot/cross held up, depositing three valuable points in Caleb Porter’s bank.
What does it mean?
Every team currently in the playoff picture in the West won last week (except Seattle, ha!), so Portland remains in fifth place, two points out of third, five points ahead of seventh-place Houston.
A trip to Salt Lake City! At 4,200 feet above sea level, you can’t really call SLC the Timbers’ “Death Valley”—more like “Death Plateau”. For those of you who are new to MLS, Portland has an absolutely dreadful record against Real Salt Lake, both home and away. Since 2011, the Timbers are 2-4-5 in the regular season versus the Claret and Cobalt. Additionally, RSL unceremoniously knocked the Timbers out of the 2013 playoffs.
The 2015 edition of Real Salt Lake isn’t quite as successful as that franchise has been over the past seven or eight years. Sitting in 8th place, seven points behind Portland, RSL will see this as a “six pointer”, a must-win for their playoff push.
Water Cooler Stat: The Number 10
Hey, Kids! This week’s stats are brought to you today by the number 10! The shutout gives Portland’s stingy defense a league-leading 10 on the season; Adam Kwarasey is now just three shy of the team record.
Adi’s goal was his—you guessed it—10th of the season. The Nigerian striker becomes the third MLS Timber to reach double digits (Valeri did it twice, Nagbe once). With just two more goals (one more brace!) Adi can tie Valeri’s 2013 total.
You would have to favor him to eclipse Valeri’s standard, and while we’re at it, Kwarasey to approach the shutout record because there are still—wait for it—10 games left.
Opposing player to watch: Nick Rimando
The US National Team goalkeeper simply has the Timbers in his back pocket. Though only 5’10—diminutive for a goalkeeper—Rimando is in the top tier of athletic, successful, and if you’re a Timbers fan, frustrating keepers in the league. His persistent, almost inexplicable dominance over PTFC has birthed a term for the soccer lexicon: “Rimando’d”. When the goal is wide open, defense in shambles, and keeper on the ground, yet he somehow springs up to get the slightest toe on the shot, parrying it away for a corner and leaving the shooter looking skyward in despair: you’ve been Rimando’d.
Timber to watch: Diego Valeri
Coming off a home win, and with the playoff push in full swing, the Timbers need to keep the momentum going. Having to accomplish that in a stadium where good results have been historically hard to come by is a big ask. Portland will look to their Maestro for a spark. Valeri is still on the path towards full fitness, but has been directly involved in two of Portland’s last three goals, which is a great sign.