Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake
Venue: Providence Park – Saturday, March 7 – 10:30 ET (03:30 GMT – Sunday, 8)
Match Odds: Portland 6/5 – Draw 9/4 – Real Salt Lake 23/10
The Timbers agonisingly missed out on the playoffs by just one point last season despite ending the year with just one defeat in their last nine.
A key reason in failing to reach the postseason was the fact that Portland failed to win in their first eight games of last season. They need to start better and will want to begin with a victory against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.Embed from Getty Images
RSL did make the playoffs last season but were eliminated by eventual champions, LA Galaxy 5-0 in the second-leg of their Western Conference semi-final.
Real Salt Lake ended the regular season unbeaten in three without conceding a goal and one of those games was a 0-0 draw at Portland.
These two sides faced each other three times last year and couldn’t be separated as they both won one each and drew that late season game at Providence Park.Embed from Getty Images
Portland and RSL only lost one game each over the course of preseason and come into the new season full of confidence, both looking to make the playoffs in a highly competitive Western Conference.
The Portland Timbers have plenty of injury worries ahead of the curtain raiser as Will Johnson (broken leg), Diego Valeri and Ben Zemanski (both torn ACL) are all definitely out for some time. Michael Nanchoff (hip), Diego Chara (calf) and Jorge Villafana (muscle tightness) are all doubts but Villafana is expected to make the game and start at left-back. New goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey should start in goal while former RSL centre-back Nat Borchers will partner Liam Ridgewell in defence.
Real Salt Lake have five injury worries of their own ahead of the clash as Joao Plata (metatarsal), John Stertzer (toe), Justen Glad (knee), Demar Phillips (hamstring) and Pecka (hip) are all set to miss out.
Portland Timbers’ form: N/A
Real Salt Lake’s form: N/A
Key Stat: The Timbers have not beaten Real Salt Lake at home in their last five MLS meetings (P5 – D3 – L2).Embed from Getty Images
Key Player: Fanendo Adi – The Timbers’ Designated Player is starting his first full season in MLS and will likely lead the attack for Portland on Saturday night. He bagged nine goals from 18 starts last season and will be raring to go in this one.
Portland Timbers 1-1 Real Salt Lake – Both sides have key players out injured and will just want to get points on board in their opening games. That could lead to another draw but both sides will likely find the net in this one.