MLS

RSL battles Galaxy and Timbers face Sounders on TSN2

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The Sports Network
11/7/2013 12:58:52 PM
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Real Salt Lake will square off with the Los Angeles Galaxy for the second time in five days on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium in the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Catch the game live on TSN2 at 9pm et/6pm pt.

RSL enters Thursday's contest down 1-0 after losing in Los Angeles to a Sean Franklin goal. But Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis thinks the quick turnaround will benefit his team.

The Claret and Cobalt had 11 days off between its final regular season match and the first leg against the Galaxy, and Kreis wasn't surprised that his side struggled a bit in the first leg.

"This is the third or fourth time this season where we've had more than 10 days in between matches," Kreis said. "It causes some difficulties just with our rhythm and our flow. Especially in our possession."

Those issues were evident in the first match on Sunday, and that result only continued a trend of trouble for RSL when having too much time off.

Since the beginning of September, Salt Lake has had gaps of 14 days, eight days, 14 days and 11 days between games, with the club posting a mark of 0-3-1 in those matches.

On the flip side, the team is 8-2-3 in games with four or fewer days of rest in all competitions.

Kreis has said that being down 1-0 really won't change the mentality of his side going into the game, but he acknowledged that there is a little different feeling going into this match.

"When you're in the middle of the season, you feel like even if things go really wrong, you've got some time to fix it," Kreis said. "You get to the end of the season and you know if things go really wrong, your season's over. And I don't want it to be over. I've had a really enjoyable time this year and I'd like to press on for a few more weeks."

The Galaxy would like to bring an end to that run for Salt Lake, and in the process, press on toward claiming a third successive MLS Cup.

Los Angeles was clearly the better side in the first leg, but was only able to come away with a one-goal advantage.

Having a lead is important, yet defender Omar Gonzalez knows that his side is in for a real battle on Thursday and that they must come prepared to put in a complete performance.

"We're not going in there overconfident. We're going in there to put our heads down and put in some good, hard work, because that's what it's going to take," Gonzalez said.

The Galaxy has won three of the first four games between the teams this season - including Sunday's first leg - and forward Landon Donovan feels like his team is in a great position to get the necessary result on Thursday and advance to the Western Conference final.

"We went [to Salt Lake City] twice this year with less than our full team," Donovan said following LA's 1-0 victory on Sunday. "One game we won, 2-0, and one game was 1-1 until the 84th minute or so [as RSL scored two late goals for a 3-1 victory]. We're very confident. We go there with a full team, our team's very fit now, we're well rested, we're healthy, and we like our chances."

Confident Timbers ready to take down Seattle

The Portland Timbers made quite an impression in their first MLS playoff match on Saturday, going to Seattle and handing the Sounders a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal.

And that result gives the club plenty of confidence ahead of Thursday's return leg in Portland at JELD-WEN Field, which is a place that Timbers head coach Caleb Porter has labeled "a fortress".

Catch the game live on TSN2 at 11pm et/8pm pt.

"We're one step away," Porter said Saturday after the Timbers' win. "We obviously have to have a good performance next game Thursday at home. But they have to come on our home field and get a piece of us in order to get through, and I like our chances. Obviously, we have to play as well as we did in this game. We have to be as hungry, we have to fight as hard, we have to be as organized."

Portland knows that a draw on Thursday will be enough to reach the Western Conference final, while Seattle must do what only one team did this season, and that is win a match in Portland.

The Timbers put together the top home record in MLS, going 11-1-5 at JELD-WEN Field this season, and that lone defeat came March 9 against Montreal in the second regular-season game of the campaign.

Since Aug. 21, Portland has not allowed a goal at home, a streak that spans 450 minutes and includes five straight clean sheets.

With that in mind it is no wonder the Timbers are in a confident mood ahead of Thursday's match. However, the Sounders find themselves in a familiar position after the first leg, and are not fazed by the deficit.

In the past two seasons Seattle has lost the first leg of a playoff series by a 3-0 score, with the first coming to Real Salt Lake and last season against Los Angeles.

The Sounders were unable to overturn either of those deficits, but the 2-1 score they face is certainly not as big a hurdle.

"I know right now it's not nice, but it doesn't change how we approach the game in Portland," Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. "We still go out trying to win. That's all we have to do. We just need to win by one goal to get it to overtime."

The reason for optimism in Seattle is the late goal scored by midfielder Osvaldo Alonso which reduced the deficit to 2-1.

A first-half header from Ryan Johnson was followed by Darlington Nagbe's goal in the second half, putting Portland in complete control.

But Alonso scored in stoppage time to hand his team a lifeline, and head coach Sigi Schmid thinks his team is fully capable of going to Portland and getting the necessary result.

"It's halftime of the game," Schmid said after Saturday's defeat. "We feel very confident we can go to Portland and win. Just as Portland came here and won, we feel very confident we can go there and win."

Schmid's team would also be boosted by the return of both Obafemi Martins and DeAndre Yedlin, who are to training this week after missing out on the first leg against Portland.

With forward Lamar Neagle out through suspension because of an accumulation of yellow cards, Martins' return to the lineup would be huge, while Yedlin is hoping to recover in time from an ankle injury to take his place in midfield.

Omar Gonzalez (Photo: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
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