Sandy • Goals are not sparse when Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers meet. The sides have combined to score 15 goals in three previous matchups leading up to the most important match of the season Saturday at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Ore.
Saturday very well could be another offensive assault from either side. Or both.
The recently first-place Timbers face No. 2 RSL for an inside track on the Western Conference title as well as points in the race for the Supporters' Shield.
"I think both teams have aggressive mindsets," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "Both teams want to dictate the flow of the game, both teams want to boss the game a little bit in all statistical categories, and because of that, that opens up space to attack."
RSL has scored nine of the 15 combined goals between the two sides. RSL's 4-2 win over Portland at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 30 came nine days after a 3-3 draw at JELD-WEN, a game in which 10-man RSL scored a Cole Grossman stoppage-time stunner to escape with a point.
"Going up there, I think we can create some chances and hopefully put some things away," midfielder Ned Grabavaoy said, "but you never really know how a game's going to play out."
Johnson vs. RSL
Former RSL midfielder Will Johnson once again will face his old team Saturday night in Portland. It will be the first time the Timber captain has faced RSL since Portland's 2-1 loss to his former side Aug. 7 in Sandy, a match in which he left with a shoulder injury in the 63rd minute.
"He provides a lot of stability in the center midfield, breaking a lot of things up, putting a lot of work rate in there, and he's also a great leader for that team," defender Nat Borchers said.
Kreis said Johnson's captaincy in his first season in Portland is a credit to his leadership.
"He covers as much or more ground than anyone on that field, he wins as many or more tackles than anybody on that field, is involved in decisive plays as many times or more times as anybody on the field," Kreis said. "Incredibly important player for them and somebody we'll need to be mindful of."
Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez didn't go through training Tuesday after suffering a knock to the head in training Monday. Kreis said Velasquez may have concussion symptoms. Kreis said Javier Morales' left ankle, sprained in training last Tuesday, is healing. Morales will miss Saturday's game due to yellow card accumulation.