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Portland-Salt Lake game has postseason implications

Sports Xchange
20 Oct 2018, 16:38 GMT+10

The Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake hope to clinch playoff berths when the clubs meet Sunday at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.

The Timbers will lock up a postseason berth with a win or a draw against Real Salt Lake. They would also clinch if the LA Galaxy loses or plays Minnesota United to a draw on the road.

Portland (14-9-9, 51 points) goes into the weekend sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference. The top six teams in each conference advance to the postseason.

Real Salt Lake (14-12-7, 49 points) improved its chances with a 4-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Thursday night. That win means that Real can also reserve a postseason reservation with a win over the Timbers.

Salt Lake can still pass the Timbers and move into fifth in the standings, but the Timbers would have to lose their final two regular-season games for that to happen. The Timbers wrap up the schedule the following week at Vancouver.

Portland also could move up in the standings. It is two points behind fourth-place Seattle and five behind Los Angeles FC and Sporting Kansas, each of whom has 56 points.

Real Salt Lake and Portland both have plenty of motivation to win this one.

The Timbers would like to move up to fourth because that would mean they would avoid a knockout game during the week on the road.

The two sides met earlier this month, with the Timbers coming out on top in a 4-1 victory.

On Thursday night against the Revolution, in a must-win game, Real Salt Lake responded with three goals in the first 30 minutes to take control.

"It was the type of effort that we need, because when you put the effort in, quality's going to come out, and then it's a matchup of quality from another team, and I feel we have just as much if not more quality than any team in this league," Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said.

Real Salt Lake leads the seventh-place LA Galaxy by four points and the Vancouver Whitecaps by six with one week remaining before the playoffs.

"It was important for them to come out and start with the right tempo, the energy, the game plan we had, so I'm proud of these guys," Petke said.

The Salt Lake victory ended a four-game winless streak, and it came without the services of Kyle Beckerman and Sunday Stephen (yellow card accumulation), and Joao Plata, Albert Rusnak and Jefferson Savarino (reserve list).

Petke expects his team to be ready Sunday.

"I don't think there needs to be much motivation for these guys," he said. "They understand it's the last game of the season and we have a great opportunity ahead of us."

In the Timbers' Oct. 6 win, they were led by Sebastian Blanco's brace. The question is, can they turn back Salt Lake again.

"They have a good team, good players, they are a difficult team and they're going to be tough to play against at home," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "Petke, I played with him, I know him well, he's a good coach, he's done well and he's going to prepare for the match to try to bring the best that he can. It's going to be a tough game. It's going to be competitive."

In the win over the Revolution, Real Salt Lake opened a 4-0 lead only five minutes into the second half.

"I knew they were hungry; the pairing of Marcelo (Silva) and Nedum (Onuoha), we knew we were facing a team that was extremely athletic, extremely strong, extremely fast and aggressive and if you look at those two that's a big part of their game," Petke said. "Overall, these guys stepped up for us."

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