SANDY — The storyline is pretty simple here.
Real Salt Lake (4-0-2) will play host to winless Portland (0-2-4) Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, and the full three points would be key for RSL to keep its distance from the Timbers in the Western Conference.
“Without a doubt,” said manager Jeff Cassar. “Any time you can put distance between a team like Portland is important. If we can get three points out of Saturday, and keep them down that’s going to bode well for us at the end.”
Defender Tony Beltran admitted the Timbers are more of a slumbering beast, waiting to be unleashed.
“They're kind of a sleeping giant. We know they're a good team, there's no doubt about that, other teams in the league know that,” said Beltran. “There no reason to take any team in that position lightly, especially Portland, because we know how capable they are. We had a good record against them last year, but each game was an absolute battle.”
Of those six meetings in 2013, RSL finished 4-0-2 against Portland across all competitions.
“They’re a good team, and I think the wins will come for them,” said Cassar. “I’m sure they’re going to turn things around at some point, but we’ve just got to make sure they don’t get any confidence against us and keep them down a little bit.”
The Claret-and-Cobalt will most likely be without goalkeeper Nick Rimando between the posts, after he missed the last two matches due to a knee injury picked up on international duty.
Cassar took a positive approach to the recent injury bug.
“It’s always good for team morale when everybody is contributing, and I think guys are going to have to step up into positions with the injuries,” said Cassar. “But that’s what RSL is all about, it’s about the team and everyone contributing.”
RSL is looking to shake off a 2-2 draw in Philadelphia last Saturday, and Cassar said the lads in Claret-and-Cobalt will be aggressive from the first whistle.
“We want to come out with an aggressive mindset, keep the ball better than we did against Philly and play good attractive soccer for our fans,” said Cassar, while mentioning a slew of Portland playmakers that his team will have to key in on.
“These are people that you’ve got to respect all the time. As your having joy going forward, they can really hurt you on the other end.”
RSL forward Devon Sandoval, who has been contributing for RSL off the bench, said his team is ready to do battle on the pitch.
“Portland is always dangerous. They like to posses the ball too, but hopefully we see more of the ball than they do. We’re ready for a battle for sure,” said Sandoval.
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