Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers | US Open Cup Semifinal Preview

REAL SALT LAKE vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS
RIO TINTO STADIUM, Sandy, Utah
August 7, 2013 (US Open Cup Semifinal)
9:30 pm ET (Streaming live on USsoccer.com)

Game notes courtesy of  RealSaltLake.com, PortlandTimbers.com

Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal match marks the first meeting between the Timbers and Real Salt Lake this season. The match will be one of three games between the two sides during the month of August with two regular-season games still on the schedule (Aug. 21 and 30). Portland advanced to the USOC semifinal through a 3-2 win over FC Dallas on June 26 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. RSL advanced by beating the Carolina Railhawks 3-0 on June 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Both the Timbers and Real Salt Lake are making their first appearances in the US Open Cup semifinals with RSL previously making it to the quarterfinals in 2011. Real Salt Lake is 6-2-3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, in all competitions while building a six-game undefeated streak at home from May 4 to July 3.

REAL SALT LAKE

Excluding trophies from rivalry games, American soccer teams are only eligible for three domestic trophies. The US Open Cup is one of them. The RSL players, coaches, and staff have repeatedly said that they want to win more trophies for this club, and that they should have more trophies given the quality of the team for the last four years. It's hard to disagree – RSL has consistently been one of the top teams in the league but they have only one MLS Cup to show for it.

The Open Cup is a golden opportunity to add to the tally, and while Real is still very much in contention to win the other two trophies this year (Supporter's Shield and MLS Cup), those two are much farther off and there is much more competition for them.

RSL head coach Jason Kreis has said in no uncertain terms that he badly wants to get this team back to the CONCACAF Champions League. That's easier said than done, as a maximum of four American MLS teams qualify for the competition each year. The only guaranteed ways for US squads to earn a berth are to make it to the MLS Cup final, win the Supporters Shield, or win the Open Cup. As mentioned above, the first two options are currently very complicated. But there are only four teams left standing – and only two games remaining – in US Open play, clearly making it the simplest path to a CCL spot.

The winner of Wednesday’s RSL-Portland match will host the winner of the Chicago Fire-D.C. United semi in the U.S. Open Cup Final later this year, adding another incentive. Home finals are even rarer than home semifinals, and – should RSL win on Wednesday – they'll go into the final as favorites.

Facts and Figures:

  • Real Salt Lake have scored 11 goals in only three U.S. Open Cup matches, giving the Claret-and-Cobalt an average of 3.67 goals per Open Cup game.  RSL’s scoring haul is tied for the most in the Open Cup with Portland.
  • Timbers Captain Will Johnson will return to Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday for the first time since being traded from RSL to Portland on Dec. 3, 2012.  The former RSL man notched nine goals in four-and-a-half seasons with the Claret-and-Cobalt, and was named an MLS All-Star in 2009.  Johnson has already scored six goals in his first season with the Timbers.
  • Real Salt Lake forward Devon Sandoval has found the back of the net three times during the 2013 U.S. Open Cup, tying the club record held jointly by Jason Kreis, Andy Williams and Kyle Beckerman.  Two of Sandoval’s three Open Cup goals have come during extra time. Sandoval’s three goals are tied for seventh in all of Open Cup play.  Portland Timbers forward Frederic Piquionne leads the pack with five goals, four of which came in the club’s 5-1 third-round victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads.

PORTLAND TIMBERS

The Timbers earned a spot in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals for the first time in club history following a dramatic 3-2 win over FC Dallas on June
26 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. After conceding the opening goal to FC Dallas in the 15th minute, Portland’s Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri tallied back-to-back goals just two minutes apart in the second half before forward Frederic Piquionne added a third goal for the Timbers in the 72nd minute. Nagbe became Portland’s second US Open Cup Player of the Round honoree for his performance against FC Dallas.

Previously, Piquionne was named Player of the Round in the Third Round after scoring four goals in 45 minutes in a 5-1 win over the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL PRO) on May 29 at JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers followed that win up with a 2-0 shutout over the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) on June 12 as midfielder Michael Nanchoff and Jack Jewsbury scored on either side of halftime at JELD-WEN Field.

Facts and Figures:

  • The Timbers are one of two teams in MLS that features five players that have recorded four or more goals this season. For Portland, forward Ryan Johnson (7), midfielder Will Johnson (6), midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe (6), midfielder Rodney Wallace (4) and midfielder Diego Valeri (4) have set the pace for the Timbers. The only other team with as balanced scoring is league-leader Real Salt Lake.
  • Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri equaled the Timbers MLS record for most assists in a single season on Aug. 4 in a 1-1 draw against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Valeri, who is in his first season with Portland and ranks second in MLS with eight assists, has appeared in 20 games this season. The Argentinian playmaker leads the Timbers with 19 points (5 goals, 8 assists) across all competitions this season.
  • Portland has scored 23 goals in the second half of games this season, including a league-best 10 goals during the first 15 minutes following the halftime break. Portland’s 23 second-half goals are two shy of the league lead. On the defensive side, the Timbers have conceded 10 goals in the final 45 minutes this season, which ranks second behind Seattle Sounders FC (9 goals) as one of the league’s best second-half defenses.
  • The Timbers are the only MLS club that has not conceded a goal in the 15-minute interval leading into halftime. Closing out matches this season, Portland is tied for second in the league for the fewest number of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes of matches. Portland, along with Houston, has allowed three goals in the final 15-minute interval of games this season. Only Seattle Sounders FC has conceded fewer goals (2) at the end of games. Through 22 games, the Timbers have conceded the second-fewest goals in MLS this season (21), one behind the New England Revolution, who have conceded 20 goals in 22 games.