Real Salt Lake: Jason Kreis wrestles with which lineup to use Saturday against Timbers
Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis is in a tough spot tonight in Portland.
Just a few days removed from the most disappointing loss in franchise history, Kreis must decide whether to throw a reserve-heavy lineup at the Timbers or give his starters a shot at redemption.
As of Friday morning, Kreis said he was still very much on the fence about his decision.
"You want to give players an opportunity and you want some fresh legs, 'cause the turnaround from Wednesday to Saturday certainly isn't ideal for our sport. So you weigh that against getting guys back out there and giving them a chance to react and respond," said Kreis.
Neither scenario is ideal, but neither is necessarily risky.
Real Salt Lake won at New England earlier this month with a lineup that included just three regulars, so there's reason to believe a similar result is possible tonight at 8:30 p.m. at JELD-WEN Field.
Regardless of who starts, Kreis can take comfort knowing Kyle Beckerman is back on the field.
"We need Kyle's positive mentality right now. We need a lot of the players to step forward, and he's the one that wears the arm band and he's the ultimate leader on the field," said Kreis. "We need positive reactions from him and a lot of the guys."
RSL's captain was suspended for Wednesday's Champions League finale against Monterrey, and openly admitted after the loss that refocusing so quickly on Portland would be tough. Three days later, though, he's anxious to get back on the field.
"I'm gonna try and just bring some energy. I didn't play on Wednesday and I've been trying to think about this game coming up and being prepared for it," said Beckerman.
RSL defender Nat Borchers said he's already put the Monterrey loss behind him, saying Thursday was his day for perspective and reflection. Now he's putting all of his focus on winning the U.S. Open Cup, MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield this year.
"We still haven't accomplished our goals in the league yet, and we have a lot of hardware that we can win this year that we're expecting to win," he said.
Borchers was one of the regulars who rested during the New England game back on April 9, but he sounds like a player who doesn't want to rest against the Timbers.
"I always want to play, and I think everybody on this team is the same way. I don't think you want to take games off, especially important games like this. This is going to be our first experience in Portland against a very energetic team," said Borchers.
The expansion Timbers are 2-3-1 this year, but they're 2-0 at home playing in arguably the most rocking stadium in MLS.
Even though Portland has surrendered a league-worst 13 goals, Kreis suspects coach John Spencer has cleaned up some of those defensive shortcomings in the past week and doesn't expect anything to come easy.
Real Salt Lake comes into the game as the only perfect team in MLS (4-0-0), and it's also on the threshold of making some league history. Its 18-game unbeaten streak in regular-season play dating back to last July is one shy of tying the league record set by Dallas last year and Columbus in 2004-05.
"Those are two things we should take some pride in and try to defend this weekend, so we have a lot to play for," said Kreis.
Three RSL regulars — Jamison Olave, Robbie Russell and Fabian Espindola — did not make the trip to Portland. Russell tweaked his hamstring in the Monterrey match, while Kreis thought the other two could use the weekend off.
Another thing that might factor into Kreis' lineup decisions is the fact RSL has a Reserve League match at Kansas City on Tuesday.
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