Real Salt Lake has a two goal lead heading into the second leg of the Western Conference Final at Jeld-Wen Field. No doubt that’s a huge advantage. Putting it simply, there is no way Jason Kreis would choose to switch places with his counterpart Caleb Porter. However, there are some factors that bode well for the Timbers in this one:
First, they don’t have much to lose, and can pin back their ears and attack with less restraint than in a typical match. Second, they have a huge home field advantage (although RSL has done well with draws in both matches in the Rose City). Finally, in 5 matches RSL has won 3 and had 2 draws against Portland this season. Perhaps the odds may swing in the favor of the Timbers in the 6th matchup between two of MLS’s elite squads.
So with that in mind, what are some of the factors that will decide this one? Here are our Keys to the Game:
Real Salt Lake’s Keys to the Game
1) Play their game. If they try to stray from this, and hang back they will face pressure that they are unlikely to be able to withstand. If they play their typical style, they’ll likely face some threats from their opponent but will be likely to overcome that.
2) Possess the ball. As Coach Jason Kreis pointed out today in training, one of his players vocalized this week in training that the Timbers “can’t score without the ball”. This is easier said than done, but must be a focus on Sunday night at Jeld-Wen.
3) Fight for second balls. This will be a physical one, and the team that fights for the second balls may find more possession and better attacking opportunities.
Portland Timbers Keys to the Game
1) Darlington Nagbe needs to impose his will. Nagbe is a talented player and can take over a game at times. However, he often appears to take a back seat to players around him. If he steps it up in this match, RSL may be facing wave after wave of Portland forays into their 3rd.
2) Defend on set pieces. It’s been an issue for them this season. Perhaps one of the chinks in their armor. If they are soft on set piece defending it will come back to bite them.
3) Be patient but assertive. The Timbers can’t expect the goals to come too quickly. RSL will put up a fight. If they get frustrated or anxious it could spell disaster for them, and bring an end to their season.