The circumstances surrounding Real Salt Lake's visit to Portland on Saturday are remarkably different than they were a year ago.
When RSL visited Portland last April, it was just three days removed from arguably the most disheartening loss in everyone's career. Virtually everyone was still in shock from the Champions League loss to Monterrey when RSL took the field in front of the raucous Timber faithful.
"I think everybody was half or three-quarters there. It was a weird, weird match," said RSL coach Jason Kreis, whose team saw its 18-match league unbeaten streak come to an end with the 1-0 loss.
Everything was a bit of a blur.
"That was a strange game we played up there. I remember clearly in the first half we were out of sorts; we gave up a bad goal on a set piece. In the second half we turned it on. We went into the locker room and got ourselves together. In the second half I thought we were far and away the better team," said RSL defender Nat Borchers.
Borchers has yet to play a match this year, as he's recovering from an offseason surgery, but he's poised to likely make his first start of the season today against the Timbers (8 p.m., Ch. 4).
Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio, who've appeared as subs the first three games, may make their starting debuts as well.
Whether the trio cracks the starting 11 Saturday or not, with home games next Wednesday against Montreal and next Saturday at Colorado, their return is an inevitability over the next week.
Like last year, Real Salt Lake ventures to Portland coming off a loss — albeit much less significant.
Despite outplaying Chivas USA for most of the match last weekend, one mistake at the back was the difference as the Goats pulled off the stunning 1-0 upset.
"I thought we did have a good effort this past week, I thought our energy was good. We need to keep bringing that, especially up there because they're really going to feed off the crowd and come out with a lot of energy," said RSL defender Chris Wingert.
Portland is also coming off a 1-0 loss, courtesy of a New England goal just 28 seconds into last weekend's match. Coming off an 0-1-1 road trip to Dallas and New England, the Timbers will feel much more comfortable at home, where it thrashed Philadelphia 3-1 to start the season.
The Timbers have conceded the first goal in all three games, a trend RSL will try to exploit early. The home team will also be without starting center back Hanyer Mosquera, who suffered a concussion in the 24th minute last weekend.
Regardless of who starts for RSL, Kreis expects to see a solid bounce-back performance from his team despite the hostile environment.
"It's an awesome place to play," said Kreis. "To be there with such a loud crowd and such an intense atmosphere, so I think there's every reason to want to play there and to want to play well. I hope there's a statement to be made after a disappointing loss this past weekend," he said.
RSL won five games on the road last year, tied for the fifth most in MLS.
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