Sandy • There will be goals. Expect that much at least.
Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers have played twice this year, combining for nine goals. That RSL has conceded four of them is a tradeoff coach Jason Kreis says he can live with.
“I would rather tie 3-3 than tie 0-0,” he said Thursday as his team prepared for a third meeting with the Timbers on Friday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. “We have an aggressive mentality. We always have. Why not practice what we preach?”
After going scoreless over its final five matches of last year, RSL made a decision to stockpile firepower this season. The team’s depth — particularly among its five forwards, a collection Kreis says he has more trust in than any he’s ever coached — has certainly been important.
But it’s the play of RSL’s midfielders that has allowed Salt Lake to fly past the franchise record of 46 goals set a season ago. The team has 48 on the year with seven games still to play.
Kreis has demanded more from his midfielders this season as he’s called for more players to push forward and get involved in the attack. The results have been undeniable: seven midfielders have found the back of the net, and four of them have done it at least four times, led by Javier Morales’ six.
But it has meant some concessions for RSL. The team relies on the midfielders playing the side of the diamond particularly to cover a lot of ground and handle heavy defensive loads.
The tradeoff has meant scoring chances for Salt Lake’s opponents. Of the Western Conference teams currently in playoff position, only the Galaxy has allowed more goals per game (1.28) than RSL (1.22).
RSL’s plus-15 goal differential, meanwhile, is the best in the league.
Kreis has been an advocate of the spectacle, and of free-flowing matches. He’s been complimentary of the Timbers and new coach Caleb Porter for that very reason. Even on the road, Portland won’t put eight or nine men behind the ball and bunker in.
That means there will be chances for goals.
That suits Kreis just fine.
“Soccer is like sleeping with a blanket that’s too small,” he said. “You can cover your head or your feet. Sometimes you have to make a choice.”
Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake
O At Rio Tinto Stadium
Kickoff • Friday, 8 p.m.
TV • NBCSN. Radio • 700 AM
Records • RSL 13-8-6 (45 points); Portland 9-4-12 (39)
Last meeting • RSL 3, Portland 3 (Aug. 21)
About RSL • Found a little more room to breathe at the top of the MLS standings thanks to a 4-0 win over Columbus last weekend. … The team’s 48 goals broke the franchise mark set a year ago, and there are seven games left in the season.
About Portland • The Timbers have seen a turnaround under new coach Caleb Porter and currently sit in fourth place in the West. … Former RSL midfielder and Portland captain Will Johnson has yet to play for the team after injuring his shoulder against RSL early in August.