The Portland Timbers’ Guide to the Final Week of MLS
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
The first half of this game had me preparing to write a much different article, with the Galaxy consistently threatening the Portland goal, including two hits off the post and a Robbie Keane wonder-goal. But something snapped in the Timbers at halftime and they went full-on Hulk rage as they proceeded to score five(!) goals in just over 25 minutes against a Galaxy squad that had allowed only 11 goals at home all season prior to Portland’s explosion.
This was easily the most unexpected result of The Timbers’ season thus far, and ranks right among the most shocking results in all of MLS for 2015. Absolutely nothing in Portland’s recent run of play indicated they were capable of this kind of result against any MLS squad, much less a Galaxy team that had not lost at home since early June. After all, Portland had scored only four goals in their previous five games.
And yet, here we are. After all the wringing, worrying, and consternation from the Timbers and their fans, Portland now sits tied for third place in the Western Conference, a playoff birth tantalizingly close.
The Timbers now have one final game to play in the MLS regular season, hosting the last-place Colorado Rapids next Sunday evening in Providence Park. But despite the victory over Los Angeles, the Timbers still have work to do to ensure their place in the Western Conference playoffs. Exactly four points separate the second-place Los Angeles Galaxy and the seventh place San Jose Earthquakes. Second place earns you a bye through the second round; seventh misses the playoffs entirely. Portland can still finish anywhere from second to seventh depending on how the rest of the games break.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the final week of games in the Western Conference and evaluate the Timbers’ rooting interests in all of them. Except for the one Wednesday game, all of the other games will be played simultaneously at 4:00 PM on Sunday:
Colorado Rapids at Sporting Kansas City:
While one could reasonably say that Portland does not want Colorado to gain any momentum heading into their match on Sunday, the Timbers and their fans still should be rooting for some sort of Colorado result here. If the Rapids can take any points off Kansas City, Portland would be assured of finishing ahead of them with a win.
San Jose Earthquakes at FC Dallas:
This is tough for Timbers fans. Logically, Portland should be rooting for FC Dallas to take all three points at home, which would eliminate San Jose and ensure Portland a playoff spot regardless of the outcome against Colorado on Sunday.
But, if San Jose does win and take all three points, the team that immediately goes on the playoff bubble without a win is … the Seattle Sounders. Timbers fans would truly love nothing more than to play for an MLS Cup while the Sounders are forced to watch from their couches.
So yes, Timbers fans should probably root for Dallas here, just to be on the safe side. But I’m sure there won’t be many tears shed if and when San Jose puts Seattle on the chopping block.
Speaking of …
Easiest call of the day. If Timbers fans weren’t going to be busy cheering on their own squad at 4:00 PM on Sunday, they would find whatever red and blue they could find. Not only does a Seattle loss or draw put them in peril, it also ensures the Timbers a playoff spot, regardless of the outcome against Colorado.
Real Salt Lake has already been eliminated from the playoff picture at this point, but may relish the spoiler role against a Sounders squad that has won only one of its past five matches. If Seattle fails to earn a win, the best the Sounders can do is fifth place and a road do-or-die game, and it opens the door for San Jose to jump through and eliminate Seattle altogether.
Houston Dynamo at Vancouver Whitecaps:
Another easy call. The Timbers could benefit greatly from a Houston win or draw, as the Whitecaps are tied with the Timbers on points but hold all the tiebreakers. A Whitecaps victory means the best that the Timbers could finish is third place.
Los Angeles Galaxy at Sporting Kansas City:
The Galaxy will try and recover from the beatdown suffered at the hands of Portland when they travel to Kansas City. Los Angeles is already guaranteed a playoff spot, and can clinch a bye with a win. A loss could see them drop all the way to sixth.
Much of Kansas City’s possible outcomes depend on the result of the Wednesday game. Two wins and Kansas City finishes in second place with the all-important bye. Two losses and they could drop out of the playoffs entirely.
A draw would serve the Timbers just fine here. A draw means that a Timbers victory would ensure that they finish ahead of both Los Angeles and Kansas City.
Colorado Rapids at Portland Timbers:
If the Timbers take all three points against Colorado, the worst they could finish is in fourth place, which is good enough to earn a home playoff game in the opening round. It also leaves the door open to finish as high as second, which would mean a first round bye.
A draw would still guarantee the Timbers a playoff spot, but leaves them far more vulnerable to being jumped in the standings. Seattle and Kansas City could both leapfrog the Timbers with a win, which would mean the Timbers are on the road to Los Angeles, Vancouver, Seattle or Kansas City for a winner-take-all elimination game.
A loss is the only scenario where Portland could miss the playoffs entirely. If Kansas City earns two points from their matches, Seattle wins, San Jose wins and Portland loses, the Timbers would be the one left standing without a playoff spot. Even if the Timbers squeak into the playoffs with a loss, they would almost certainly end up traveling for the opening round game.
So there you have it, Timbers fans. Six games left in the Western Conference playoff race, with each and every one impacting the Timbers in some way. Whether you’re at the game or watching from home, make sure you keep the scoreboard handy – it’s going to be a wild finish to a crazy season.
Related Slideshow: Timbers v. San Jose in Pictures
Despite a record-setting offensive night from the Timbers, a 3-3 draw was the final result against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes. Here are pictures from the game.
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