Sandy • Tasked with selling out its stadium on just three days' notice, to the first home Sunday match in the franchise's nine-year history, Real Salt Lake came fairly close.
As of 6:30 p.m. Sunday night, 30 minutes prior to the kicking off of the first leg of the Western Conference final with the Portland Timbers, RSL had sold 17,165 tickets. Official full capacity of Rio Tinto Stadium is 20,238, with potential for added standing room.
RSL had played 350 matches prior to No. 351, the Sunday home playoff match against Portland.
With all the surrounding storylines regarding Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers and how the two clubs sport similar approaches to the match, none is perhaps more telling than the two offensive midfielders who make things click offensively.
RSL's Javier Morales and Portland's Diego Valeri are considered two of the premier attacking minds in Major League Soccer. Both Argentines, Morales and Valeri were in fact briefly teammates on Argentina's Club Lanus in 2003, a side currently coached by former MLS star Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Morales finished the regular season with eight goals and 10 assists, while Valeri, considered a league MVP candidate, notched 10 goals and added 13 assists.
The battle of the midfield is where each side will look to limit space and damage in this two-leg series.
"That's the engine room, that's where a lot of things get done," Kreis said Saturday. "I think that's where the battle lies [Sunday], for sure."
Rookie forward Devon Sandoval got the nod up top in place of injured leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, who suffered a right hip flexor injury in extra time of Thursday's 2-0 win over L.A. While missing Saborio hurt the Costa Rican star has buried seven goals in six career matches against the Timbers Â Sandoval has had an impressive rookie campaign. The University of New Mexico product has scored six goals in all competitions and scored the lone goal in RSL's 1-0 road win over Vancouver on Sept. 28.