How They Stand: Portland Timbers Update
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Maintaining that position, however, will not be an easy task.
On Saturday, the Timbers will take on Toronto FC for their last matchup against an Eastern Conference team.
After coming off a 6-0 win against CONCACAF Champions League opponent Alpha United, the offense of the Timbers appears to be in a great position. The Timbers have outscored their last 4 MLS opponents 11-5.
The question lies, and as it will always lie until season’s end, on their defensive cohesion.
Before a strong defensive showing against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sept. 20, the Timbers failed to take advantage of two statistically weaker Western Conference teams in the San Jose Earthquakes and the Colorado Rapids.
Meanwhile, Colorado is still in contention for the West’s last playoff position, though they sit 8 points back of Portland in the seventh spot.
As for the Timbers’ defensive woes, it has come down to mental mistakes and not any obvious deficiency in the backline’s capability.
Liam Ridgewell, the much-acclaimed and highly sought-after Designated Player, gives the backline a great amount of credibility, given his playing years in the world’s best soccer league, the English Premier League.
But his defensive game in the MLS hasn’t come full circle. Ridgewell has tallied two goals for the Timbers, but with each game we witness a lack of attention on Ridgewell’s part, giving other teams valuable scoring chances, and in the case of San Jose, an easy goal to take the lead.
Toronto FC faces a playoff push themselves, sitting in the seventh spot, 3 points behind the Columbus Crew for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto is still looking for its first playoff berth in MLS history.
As the regular season comes to a close, Portland’s main contender for the last playoff spot is Vancouver, which faces a tougher schedule on paper than Portland.
In my opinion, the Timbers will seal a playoff spot with three wins. With two games against San Jose, the second worst team in the West, and one against fourth-place Dallas, who Portland tied 2-2 earlier in the season, Portland can certainly pull this off.
For now, however, their sights are set on Toronto, with a chance to take a commanding five-point lead on Vancouver.
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