SANDY — Suspended Real Salt Lake striker Fabian Espindola will be watching Saturday's match against visiting Portland from the stands, but maybe that's a good thing.
Following Wednesday's draw with Seattle, coach Jason Kreis said his attacking players are feeling some angst in and around the box lately — and nobody is feeling the heat more than Espindola.
No RSL player wears his emotions on his sleeve more than Espindola, and it's come to a boil in the past month or so. Through the first 13 games this season, the fiery Argentine striker did not receive one yellow card. In the past six games though, he's been shown five yellow cards, hence the one-game suspension.
"There's one thing that most people don't know about Fabian, he doesn't like to lose. He takes it very, very personally. A lot of time that results in some lashing out and some getting very angry, and showing it. He doesn't hide his emotions too well," said Kreis.
Of the five yellow cards, two were frustrated tripping fouls, two were time wasting and the last was dissent.
Kreis believes some of the frustration is due to fatigue, but joked that there are other ways for Espindola to get a night off if he's tired. In all seriousness though, Kreis said he's addressed the matter with Espindola.
"That's not good enough for me. We've talked about it with him and we'll continue to talk to him about it. It affects our team when we don't have Fabian available," said Kreis.
Without Espindola, there will be a different partnership up top for RSL for the first time in the past six games as the club looks to halt its four-game winless streak. Kreis even hinted he's also considering resting Alvaro Saborio, who's started 14 straight matches and the only player to appear in all 19 games.
Despite its recent struggles, which includes being held scoreless in two straight, Real Salt Lake is still tied with the second-most points in MLS. In Portland, it faces a low-scoring, inconsistent squad that hasn't won consecutive matches all season.
The Timbers, however, have won two of their last three, which includes a victory over league-leading San Jose on Tuesday.
"I think Portland is always a team that's going to come in with energy. They're a team that takes their head coach's mentality and brings that fight and spirit. I think they're going to come in and be difficult to break down," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy.
Portland might be even more motivated than normal considering the opponent. Back in Week 4 this season, RSL scored goals in the 89th and 93rd minutes to rally for a stunning 3-2 win at Portland.
That was the first of three game-winning goals scored in stoppage time this year for Real Salt Lake.
The focus on Saturday will be at the other end of the field — keeping the zero. Wednesday's shutout against Seattle was RSL's first shutout at Rio Tinto Stadium since April 7 against Colorado.
"We need to use that and go forward with that and remember it's the easiest way for us to get results is keeping a zero at the back," said Grabavoy.
This will be the third game in the past eight days for RSL, the fifth of seven such stretches this season. Kreis' team is 3-1-0 in the last game of the previous occasions, and as far as Nat Borchers is concerned, bring 'em on.
"This is the time of the year as a player you love, you want to play games. You want to have fewer training sessions, more games," said Borchers.
Despite the recent struggles, Borchers said RSL has a knack for always remaining positive and looking at the big picture.1 comment on this story
Following Friday's training session, he said he'd like to get a bit of help from the officials.
"Let's be honest, we're not getting too much help from the officials these days. It's seems like there's a few calls that have gone against us for sure. I can't think of too many 50-50s that have gone for us," he said.