By Will Conwell
The game starts at 7:00 PM on ROOT Sports Network. If you do not have cable or want a good Portland establishment to enjoy with friends, we have a couple suggestions from our sponsors.
Watch Timbers Games in Portland:
East Burn (East Burnside & 18th) | (503) 236-2876 | More info: www.theeastburn.com
East Burn will have the game on a large projection screen on their heated patio and also downstairs. Recess discount menu from 3-6PM. They have daily drink specials (pdf of specials here).
Blitz (Ladd, Pearl, Tigard, NW 21) | More info: blitzbarpdx.webs.com
Blitz's FOUR locations will be happening as always with tons of televisions, drinks specials, and games (ping pong, shuffleboard, buckhunters, horseshoes in Tigard, and more).
Game Preview: Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake
Game 3: Portland Timbers (1W-1L-1T) vs Real Salt Lake (2W-1L-0T)
Saturday, March 31st, 7:00 p.m.
Previous match-up(s): 4/30/11 1-0 Home Win, 10/22/11 1-1 Away Tie
Listen/Watch: ROOT, 750 AM: THE GAME, PortlandTimbers.com
FREE BUS RIDES TO GAMES: Ride Blitz Bus To Portland Timbers Games | FREE Rides from Blitz Tigard & Ladd to Jeld-Wen Field
The Portland Timbers face off against Real Salt Lake at Jeld-Wen Field today in a match up of two teams coming off of unexpected losses. The Timbers looked out of sorts last week against the New England Revolution, widely thought of as one of the worst teams in the league, an never quite got their offense to click. Real Salt Lake, after winning their first two games convincingly, also lost to a team that many consider one of Major League Soccer’s worst in Chivas USA. As a result, both teams will be fired up and looking to show that they are able to put together a result against a talented team
The Timbers have struggled with starting slowly this season, and against New England, they were punished for it. The Revolution managed to bang one in during the first minute of play, thanks to some lax marking and weak defensive play by the Timbers. A hot discussion topic in training all week, it is up to the Timbers to come out strong against RSL. If the Timbers continue to give weak early performances, then every team in the league will continue to take advantage.
The Timbers struggles will only be compounded by the team’s worsening number of injuries. Hanyer Mosquera, who looked great as central defender against Dallas, will miss several weeks thanks to a broken cheek bone and a concussion after catching an innocuous elbow against the Revolution. Winger Kalif Alhassan also picked up an injury against New England, straining his groin in the first half, and will miss today’s game. There is some good news as Sal Zizzo has returned to duty with the reserves and Franck Songo’o gets closer to being 100% fit, but it seems unlikely that either will start this game.
After some controversy over who should partner with Kris Boyd up top, Darlington Nagbe or Jorge Perlaza, it seems that head coach John Spencer’s mind may have been made up for him. The current lack of available wide players makes Nagbe the best fit to take over for the injured Alhassan out wide. This is good news for Jorge Perlaza as he has generally shown well in Jeld-Wen, scoring most of his goals last year in front of the Timbers Army.
Real Salt Lake have had some injury struggles of their own, but they will bring a full compliment to bear today. At the back, perennial best defender nominee Nat Borchers has returned from injury while 2010′s best defender winner Jamison Olave is available as well. With three games for Salt Lake in the next seven days, one of the two may get some rest and, if that is the case, young up and comer Chris Schuler may step in.
In the midfield Salt Lake has seen more turnover in the last year than in the previous four combined. However, they have managed to keep their core intact in defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman and attacking midfielder Javier Morales. Beckerman, an occasional United States international, is the fulcrum around which Real Salt Lake turns. His defensive interceptions and excellent passes have made him the team MVP even while others get league wide accolades. Javier Morales, who was in the running for the MLS Most Valuable Player award in 2008 and 2009, has been working his way back to his previous levels of performance after suffering a broken foot last season. At his best, Morales is able to take over a game and is given free reign by Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis to roam all over the field.
On offense, the Timbers will need to use their speed effectively in the confines of Jeld-Wen Field. Salt Lake is a team that likes to possess the ball, so it will be up to the Timbers to be effective and economical with their chances. Kris Boyd, who was consistently off target against New England, will need to take the accuracy and focus he showed in training this week and apply it here. Perlaza, too, will need to step up his game and force some saves from Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando.
On defense, the Timbers will need to improve their communication. With tricky players like Javier Morales to deal with, the Timbers defense will need to be on top of things at all times. Timbers’ central defenders Eric Brunner and Andrew Jean-Baptiste will need to organize effectively and play strong, as they will be dealing with a serious scoring threat in Alvorio Saborio, Salt Lake’s designated player at forward. On the outside, Lovel Palmer will have to be careful of getting forward in the attack as Real Salt Lake’s Fabian Espindola has the speed to get in behind defenses and is a real goal scoring threat.
TIMBERS LEADING SCORERS
Kalif Alhassan - 1
Kris Boyd - 1
Andrew Jean-Baptiste - 1
Darlington Nagbe - 1
TIMBERS PREDICTED LINE-UP
Palmer (RB), Brunner (CB), Jean-Baptiste (CB), Wallace (LB)
Alexander (RM), Chara (CM), Jewsbury (CM), Nagbe (LM)
Boyd (F), Perlaza (F)
Last season the Timbers played strong against Real Salt Lake and came away with three points in Jeld-Wen Field. The Timbers face a healthier Salt Lake squad and will need effort and concentration to get the job done, even at home in front of the Timbers Army. This game should be a hard one, but not an un-winnable one.
Pipeline's Portland Timbers coverage by:
Will Conwell is an aspiring novelist who spends his free time unloading trucks in warehouses. His passions in life are soccer, beer, and writing, which he has found are best enjoyed in concert. Will can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at TimbersPipeline.