RSL, Portland renew rivalry at Providence Park

Portland, OR ( - Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers will renew their rivalry on Saturday when the two sides meet at Providence Park.

The two clubs squared off three times last season, splitting the series with a 1-1-1 record.

It proved to be a more beneficial run of results for Salt Lake as the Claret and Cobalt finished the regular season in third place in the Western Conference; the Timbers missed the postseason with a sixth-place finish.

While Salt Lake secured a seventh consecutive berth in the playoffs, the club crashed out in the opening round in disappointing fashion, suffering a 5-0 aggregate loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, who would go on to become MLS Cup champions.

All told, it wasn't a poor start to the Jeff Cassar era. Cassar, after all, did have big shoes to fill in replacing head coach Jason Kreis, who signed on to join New York City FC following the 2013 MLS Cup defeat.

Cassar's second act, though, could be marginally more difficult after having to reshuffle the roster's defense.

Salt Lake sent stud defender Nat Borchers to the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money while longtime servants Chris Wingert and Ned Grabavoy were snapped up by NYCFC in the MLS Expansion Draft, leaving Cassar with some holes to fill.

The club addressed those needs by landing Jamison Olave, who earned MLS Defender of the Year honors with RSL in 2010, through a trade with Red Bull New York.

Adding Demar Phillips and Elias Vasquez provides Cassar with further reinforcements, while the club may also feel tempted to throw highly-touted rookie defenders Phanuel Kavita and Boyd Okwuonu into the mix.

Salt Lake also added a bit of steel to the middle of the park by securing the services of holding midfielder Pecka, who joins the Rio Tinto outfit from NASL club Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

The remainder of the club's roster is unchanged from last season, save for a few minor pieces.

Javier Morales is RSL's central creative force while Luke Mulholland will add a bit of industry to the proceedings.

Alvaro Saborio, Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval will comprise the forward line, which was responsible for just 24 of the club's 54 goals in the regular season last term.

Portland, meanwhile, enters the 2015 season with the aim of rebounding from a disappointing campaign.

The Timbers enjoyed a splendid 2013 season, finishing on 57 points to put the club atop the Western Conference and within two points of the MLS Supporters' Shield.

A couple of key offseason moves appeared to put the Timbers in good stead for the 2014 season, but plethora of draws (13, in total) saw the club finish the regular season with 49 points, one point back of Vancouver Whitecaps FC for the final playoff berth in the West.

Portland's goal for 2015 is clear: return to prominence by locking up a spot in the postseason.

In order to achieve this objective, the club has added some key reinforcements, both in defense and in attack.

First-choice goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was selected by Orlando City SC in the MLS Expansion Draft, a move that forced Portland to sign Ghana international Adam Larsen Kwarasey.

The Timbers also moved to solidify the defensive unit in front of Kwarasey by signing longtime Real Salt Lake leader Nat Borchers.

Borchers, 33, will slot into the center of Portland's defense alongside Designated Player Liam Ridgewell, who joined the Timbers following an accomplished spell at English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion.