How the West will be won, step one beat the Timbers, for Real Salt Lake it is simple, win and then win some more. The Western Conference is tight and with all of our remaining MLS matches against teams in the Western Conference, well the easiest way to stay ahead of everyone is to “just win baby”. As I looked at records (home and away) of the top teams in MLS it looks as if everyone finishes off the season the same way they have played to this point, well RSL should be sitting pretty at the end of it all, but things rarely go the way you would expect. So if RSL can pick up all 12 points at home, it would go a long way towards securing that top spot.
First up is a foe that now is very familiar to RSL, the Portland Timbers, who like RSL haven’t exactly been cruising to victories the last month or so. Portland has just two victories in their 8 matches since July 7th, while RSL has 3 wins in their 9 matches since July 3rd, RSL however is building off a comeback 3-3 draw at Portland just 9 days ago and a huge 4-0 win at home over the Crew last weekend. The Timbers blew a late lead against RSL and then fought bravely but lost 1-0 at Seattle last weekend.
For RSL this year it has been the late goal that has been one of the keys, with 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of the first half of matches, and 19 in the final 15 minutes of the second half, 31 of our 48 goals scored come near the whistle. Against the Timbers we saw a late RSL goal earn the draw in Portland but the Timbers have only given up 6 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches all season (RSL has given up 14), their most vulnerable time is the start of the second half, where they have given up 11 goals in minutes 46-60. One thing is for sure I don’t think this one will end without at least a couple of goals being scored, as both sides a hungry for points.
Nick Rimando – I think at this point of the season we can all be fairly honest with each other, without Nick both in goal and as a team leader, we probably would be one of those teams fighting to get into a playoff position rather than leading the conference. It was great for everyone to get to see Nick with the USMNT as it allowed him to showcase what us RSL fans have known for years, he simply is the best keeper week in and week out in MLS. He is putting up another career year in MLS with a 0.95 GAA, 8 shutouts and 12 wins. When Nick finally decides to hang up his boots and gloves I believe that he will hold so many goal keeping records in MLS that maybe then people will appreciate him for the qualities he brings to the pitch, I know that fans in Salt Lake and DC already know that Nick is simply clutch.