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Portland looks for 3rd straight win in facing RSL

(Image: Twitter/@timbersfc)

Defense figures to get plenty of attention when the Portland Timbers hit the road yet again for a Saturday clash against Real Salt Lake.

The Timbers (2-5-1, seven points) have had a miserable start to the season, but have begun to turn it around with consecutive victories at Columbus and Toronto.

The game plan figures to be similar at Real Salt Lake, but strategy is not the biggest reason for Portland’s resurgence.

“Tactics are secondary, I always say that,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “It’s the spirit and the mentality that are more important. What I have seen in the past three games is the team back (with) enthusiasm, the willingness to work and a team working together.”

Savarese lauded his back line, led by defenders Claude Dielna and Larrys Mabiala. The Timbers gave up two goals combined in their consecutive victories after allowing five in their previous two matches, both defeats.

Most impressive about the Timbers’ turnaround is that it has come during a mammoth road trip to open the season as their home stadium Providence Park is going through a renovation. Saturday’s game will be the ninth of 12 consecutive road games to start the season.

Real Salt Lake (3-5-1, 10 points) will be coming off a 2-1 defeat at Los Angeles against the Galaxy, with a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal preventing the chance to earn a point. Otherwise, the effective Galaxy striker was held in check.

RSL has allowed just four goals in its past four games after a 4-2 loss against Dallas at the end of March.

“We had the energy in the second half (against the Galaxy),” said RSL defender Donny Toia, who scored his first goal in four seasons Sunday. “If we can do that in the first half from the get-go, it would be great. But at the same time defensively, I thought we did well. We kept them in front of us. We could have gotten a result out of it and we didn’t.”

Real Salt Lake holds a slim 5-4-2 advantage in the all-time matchup. Both teams have scored 11 goals this season with Portland giving up 19 goals and RSL allowing 16.

REUTERS/Field Level Media

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