BEAVERTON, Ore. – By now, the Portland Timbers have surely grown tired of hearing the same refrain leading up to their meetings with Real Salt Lake.
RSL have the Timbers number and in Salt Lake they’ve been unbeatable.
The Timbers get it, having lost to RSL four times and tied them twice last year. At Rio Tinto Stadium, Portland have lost four times and earned just one draw since they joined MLS in 2011. That includes a two-game sweep in the Western Conference Championship of last year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
On Saturday the visiting Timbers will try to claim their first-ever win there (10 pm ET; Univision Deportes, MLS Live). They are hoping the tide is beginning to turn just a bit.
“Any time you play a team a number of times and you haven’t won, it starts to bother you,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter told media on Friday at the team practice facility. “I mean, it bothers us every game we don’t win, but I think when you have a team that’s been a bit of a thorn in our side you eventually want to break that pattern.”
Porter started to see signs of that happening in their last meeting – another loss, 1-0 on April 19 at Rio Tinto. Despite not scoring and leaving empty-handed, Portland out-possessed and out-shot RSL.
He called it the “best game” his Timbers have played against their burgeoning nemesis.
“We need to build on the last time we played them because we did play well,” Porter said. “I thought in particular we defended really well, and we had some chances we should have done better with. But we need to build off that performance.”
And if there’s a time for Portland to send a shot across the bow of an otherwise lopsided rivalry, this is it.
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Real Salt Lake will be without US internationals in midfielder and team captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando. And forward Alvaro Saborio is out three to four months with a foot fracture suffered while in camp with the Costa Rican national team.
RSL's results have suffered as a result – with a current three-game winless streak that incuded a 4-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders that broke RSL’s 13-game unbeaten streak on May 31. It's worth noting that Saturday’s game will be RSL's third of the week.
What the Timbers have going for them is that they are on a bit of an offensive hot streak, having scored seven goals in their last three games.
“Hopefully this is a week of breaking patterns,” Porter said, noting that loss. “I think in looking back, we weren’t real confident in the attack going into that [April 19] game because we hadn’t been scoring. But I think the floodgates have opened a bit recently. …
"It’s going to be a tough game, it always is, but I think our attack is really confident right now.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.