Before his team's Western Conference Semifinal series against the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis made no bones about the fact that he considers Major League Soccer's postseason home-field advantage for higher-seeded team to be no advantage at all.
Despite the fact that RSL's 2-0 win over the Galaxy on Thursday night broke a long string of failures in decisive games at Rio Tinto Stadium, Kreis isn't backtracking.
“Are you expecting me to contradict myself?” he said in response to a question from MLSsoccer.com during a Friday media conference call.
No chance of that.
While the Claret-and-Cobalt just proved that it's possible to go on the road, fall behind, and come home and win a two-match series, that's the hard way to do it, Kreis believes.
“We like to be an aggressive team, as does Portland,” he said. “And so I think that if we can get out there and put our best foot forward in the first 90 minutes, we can put ourselves in a very good place.”
On the other side of this Western Conference Championship, which starts Sunday night (9 pm ET; ESPN), Portland coach Caleb Porter sounds a lot like Kreis did before his team traveled to Los Angeles.
“It is what it is. You can't do anything about it,” Porter told reporters on Friday's media call. “So we're not going to talk about it. We're not going to worry about it. We're going to be fresh. We're going to be flying. We'll be turned around, no problem. Real Salt Lake's in the same situation.”
Well, not exactly. Sure, both teams have the same quick, three-day turnaround. But RSL will be at home, where they're 2-0 against Portland this season, including a win in the US Open Cup semifinals. The two teams battled to a pair of draws in Portland.
“I do think it's a benefit that we won't have to travel,” Kreis said. “I do think it's a benefit that our guys are going to get to sleep in their own beds.”
And, given the emotion that accompanied RSL's win over LA, Kreis doesn't think his players got much rest on Thursday night.
“I'm pretty certain ... that if I'd played in that game, there'd be no chance I would have gotten a single wink,” he said.
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Portland claimed the home-field “advantage” in this matchup by the slimmest of margins. The Timbers ended the regular season with 57 points (14-5-15); Salt Lake were a single point behind with 56 (16-10-8).
Working in the Timbers' favor is the fact that they put Seattle away in 90 minutes on Thursday night — a 3-2 win that gave Portland a 5-3 win on aggregate — while Salt Lake played those extra 30 minutes to put LA away.
Kreis said he probably won't know until Sunday if forward Alvaro Saborio, who pulled a muscle in that overtime, will be available. Midfield Ned Grabavoy, who suffered a hamstring injury last Sunday, might be available.