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Real Salt Lake hoping to continue success in Portland

Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, left, and Kyle Beckerman applaud the crowd before the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals match against the Mexican club Tigres of Monterrey at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Tigres
Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, left, and Kyle Beckerman applaud the crowd before the second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals match against the Mexican club Tigres of Monterrey at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Tigres won 3-1 on aggregate.
Chris Samuels,

SANDY — Nick Rimando said it’s way too early to gauge if Real Salt Lake’s two-game unbeaten start to the MLS season is an indicator of better days ahead for the club after last year’s disappointment.

It’s not too early, however, for him to notice a big change in attitude.

“Yes, I think the mentality for sure is different,” said RSL’s veteran keeper.

“We feel good, we feel confident. We haven’t been playing our best, but we are playing better than we did last year. I think that’s a good thing to know there’s a lot more room to grow as a team.”

RSL will try and take a big step toward putting last year in the rearview mirror when it travels to defending MLS Cup champ Portland for a Saturday night tilt (8:30 p.m., KMYU) at Providence Park.

It’s a place Real Salt Lake has enjoyed a ton of success since the Timbers joined the league in 2011. Since dropping its first-ever match in Portland, RSL is 3-0-3 in six trips to the Northwest over all competitions.

That includes a staggering four straight road shutouts when Rimando is in goal.

Rimando said there’s no switch he flips just for the Timbers, but rather the team always puts forth a great collective effort in the fantastic environment at Providence Park.

Portland beat Real Salt Lake 1-0 in both meetings at Rio Tinto Stadium, but in the season opener at Portland the teams played to a scoreless draw.

Coach Jeff Cassar likes his team’s mentality after it rallied for last week’s win over Seattle.

“I like a lot of things we’re doing team-defending wise. Obviously you have some breakdowns and hopefully you don’t pay for them like we did against Orlando. I really like our team defending right now. I think the guys are on the same page,” said Cassar.

His team will need to be sharp against a dynamic attack for the Timbers.

“They’re tough to track, tough to mark. They’ve got a lot of guys that can float and can go anywhere,” said RSL defender Aaron Maund.

It’s similar in many ways to RSL’s attack, in which Joao Plata, Javier Morales and Juan Manuel Martinez interchange regularly. Morales is expected to return to the RSL lineup after sitting out last week’s Seattle match with an injury.

DeMar Phillips could also return to the field after sitting out last week’s victory because of the red card picked up in Orlando in the season opener.

Including its two CONCACAF Champions League matches against Tigres, Real Salt Lake has conceded at least one goal in every match in 2016. It secured a result in three of four nonetheless, but Maund said it’s important the backline continues to learn from the earlier mistakes to shore things up in front of Rimando.

“I think we’ve done really well in a lot of tough situations, but I think there’s always room for improvement. It’s early on in the season, so that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to build off of all these performances we’ve had,” said Maund.

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com