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Sandy • Jeff Cassar vividly remembers the lost marks, the poor turnovers, the players suddenly caught out of position. Collectively, those mistakes have been a common theme lately when the Portland Timbers visit Rio Tinto Stadium. They're themes Cassar can pinpoint when discussing the string of losses to a club that for so many years struggled mightily in Utah.

Lately, the Timbers have been right at home in Sandy. The reigning MLS Cup champions return to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night riding a three-game road win streak in league play against RSL dating to the 2014 season.

No other MLS club has ever won three consecutive matches against RSL in Utah.

Out to re-assert itself atop the Western Conference in 2016, RSL takes such a span of results against a rival like Portland personally. Coaches and players have talked openly and often about their desire to turn Rio Tinto Stadium into the fortress it once was.

"We don't like being beat here on this field in front of our fans," said RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

No better way to start that by taking aim at 6-0-0 record at home across all competitions this year.

"That's always in our minds and we're always cognizant of that," right back Tony Beltran said. "Against these Western Conference opponents, we have to win these matchups. We have to come out of this three-game series the victors. It'll be a really important game come Saturday."

Not counting RSL's 2-0 U.S. Open Cup win over Portland in Sandy last summer, the Timbers began reversing the trend way back in June 2014 when two goals by striker Fanendo Adi led Portland to a 3-1 win in Utah — its first three points in the Beehive State. That result snapped an 11-game unbeaten streak against the Timbers for RSL, but also changed the complexion of an evolving rivalry moving forward.

Portland followed that historic win in 2014 with back-to-back 1-0 wins at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2015, highlighted by a stoppage-time stunner by longtime RSL center back Nat Borchers last August. Afterward, Borchers broke down in emotion, flooded by respect for his former club, but also by delivering what proved to be the initial dagger to RSL's seven-year postseason streak.

Two weeks before the forgettable 2015 season came to a close, the Timbers returned to beat RSL 1-0, this time after Jamison Olave was sent off, allowing the game-winning penalty kick to be awarded in the 52nd minute. But Cassar views the recent home matches against Portland as more of missed opportunities than a losing skid.

"I do believe we've had the lion's share of the play — we just didn't put it in the back of the net or we gave up a silly goal either in extra time or with a set play," he said. "I think we're doing a better job since the beginning of the year on defending set plays, concentrating on closing out games and that's leading to the three points we want, rather than a point or losing points."

The losing streak isn't something RSL specifically looks into preparation-wise, Cassar said, but it's there, planted in the back of the minds of the players and coaches. Having fine-tuned areas of the game that let them down in 2015 — putting chances away while not allowing a flurry of them to the opposition — RSL feels like it's time to flip the script.

It won't be easy against Borchers and the champion Timbers.

"They'll be coming here fighting," Beltran said.

Twitter: @chriskamrani —

Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers

P At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy

Kickoff • Saturday, 8 p.m.


Radio • 700 AM

Records • RSL 7-4-2, Portland 5-6-4

Last meeting • RSL 2, Portland 2 (March 19 at Providence Park)

About RSL • Will be without captain Kyle Beckerman for at least the next week after the U.S. men's national team advanced to the Copa America Centenario semifinals Thursday. … Midfielder Sunday Stephen (ankle) remains day-to-day. … RSL hasn't beaten the Timbers at home since April 2014. … Saturday's match marks the 16th all-time regular-season meeting between the two clubs dating to 2011. … Forward Joao Plata remains the driving force this season after jump-starting RSL with a fantastic goal in its eventual win over Wilmington Hammerheads FC in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup match. … RSL faces five matches across all competitions in the next 14 days.

About Portland • Timbers will be without forward Dairon Asprilla (red card suspension) and midfielder Darlington Nagbe (national team duty). … Former RSL stars Nat Borchers and Ned Grabavoy return to Rio Tinto Stadium. … The match will be Grabavoy's first in Utah since leaving RSL in 2014. … The Timbers are unbeaten in their last four matches across all competitions. … Portland is also unbeaten in its last six regular-season matches against RSL (4-0-2). … During its three-game win streak in Utah, Portland has outscored RSL 5-1.