Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers
will battle for first place in the Western Conference on Saturday when the two
sides meet at Jeld-Wen Field.
Portland and Salt Lake enter the match separated by just a single point atop
the West as the Timbers set the pace on 53 points.
The two clubs also have the opportunity to join Red Bull New York and Sporting
Kansas City as the lone teams to clinch postseason berths thus far.
The Timbers would announced their playoff arrival with either a win or draw
against Salt Lake, a loss or tie by the San Jose Earthquakes, or a loss or tie
by the Colorado Rapids, while RSL can clinch a spot with a defeat of Portland
or any number of various other results.
Caleb Porter's men bring an impressive run of form into Saturday's tilt,
entering the clash on a six-game unbeaten streak from which they have taken a
total of 14 points.
Portland most recently overcame a slew of absences to earn a 1-0 win over
Seattle Sounders FC. According to Jack Jewsbury, Portland's depth has been a
key factor in the club's success this season.
"I think we've said throughout the course of the year, it's not just the first
11 guys," Jewsbury said after the match. "It's a deep, deep team, probably one
of the deepest teams I've ever played on in terms of when guys step out for
international duty or injuries another guy is ready and willing to step into
that role. They've gotten chances and done very well with them.
"I think we're happy it's not only the guys that have started the games, Ben
Zemanski was incredible off the bench tonight as were other guys. It's a group
effort and that's one reason we've been so successful."
Portland also harbors hopes of eclipsing New York in the quest for the MLS
Supporters' Shield, but the club needs the Red Bulls to drop points in order
to achieve that feat.
Real Salt Lake could overtake the Timbers in the running to challenge for the
Supporters' Shield with a win on Saturday, and head coach Jason Kreis believes
that his side is in the right frame of mind heading into the final stretch of
"The attitude's been fantastic. The work rate's been terrific," Kreis told
MLSsoccer.com. "I think we've had a focused group. I think we're all on the
same page. It's been about refueling us and getting us ready to go for the
last two matches."
Portland brings a 16-game home unbeaten streak into Saturday's affair, but
Real Salt Lake managed to get the best of the Timbers in the previous meeting
as the Claret and Cobalt stormed to a 4-2 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug.
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