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RSL, Portland battle for top spot in the West

6:23 PM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
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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 season.

"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. 30.

The Sports Network

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