Timbers-Real Salt Lake Preview

The Associated Press

After meeting in last year's Western Conference finals, Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers have started their 2014 seasons in dramatically different fashions.

Salt Lake will look to improve upon its best start in franchise history Saturday night when it hosts Portland, which is still seeking its first victory.

RSL (2-0-4) is the league's only remaining unbeaten. Though Salt Lake have claimed only two victories, their record is especially impressive given some key injuries. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando has missed two straight matches due to an MCL injury, while a strained hamstring has sidelined Joao Plata for three straight games after he scored twice in his first three matches.

Neither is likely to play Saturday, coach Jeff Cassar told the team's website.

Closing out games would appear to be a focus moving forward following last Saturday's 2-all draw at Philadelphia. Kyle Beckerman put RSL ahead with his second goal of the season in the 85th minute, but they surrendered the equalizer in the 90th minute.

Cassar's club has surrendered a lead in each of its draws except for a scoreless tie in Kansas City on April 5, and three of the six goals allowed have come in the 75th minute or later.

"I think at the end of the day it was a fair result. I think they had several half chances and we had a few very good chances," Cassar said. "It was a hard fought game, it looked like there was two tough teams out there competing extremely hard and we just have to do a better job of focusing and closing out games."

RSL is 6-1-3 in the all-time series, including a 4-0-1 mark at home. Salt Lake knocked off the Timbers in the 2013 Western Conference finals 5-2 on aggregate.

Portland (0-2-4) is one of four winless teams after topping the 2013 Western Conference with 57 points. The Timbers are allowing 1.8 goals per game after finishing last year as the league's only club to limit opponents to less than one goal per match.

They played to a 1-all draw last Saturday at home against Chivas USA, surrendering the tying goal in the 79th minute. Will Johnson put Portland ahead in the seventh minute with his first goal of the season but later had a free kick deflect off the post.

The Timbers surrendered the advantage in possession for a fourth straight match after claiming the edge in their first two. They also completed just 73.0 percent of their passes against Chivas.

"We have to take better care of the ball. That's a big part of our philosophy," coach Caleb Porter said. "...That's a big part of how we control the game and how we grind out points."

Portland has been outscored 4-1 in two road losses thus far after tying for the league lead last season with a plus-three road goal differential.

Salt Lake is 11-2-4 over its last 17 home matches with a 37-15 edge in goals.

Alvaro Saborio, who leads RSL with three goals, has scored six times in six career matchups with the Timbers. He recorded his first career MLS hat trick against them on July 7, 2012.

Javier Morales has scored four times in his last five matches versus Portland.

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