Tomorrow is the first of two games against Cascadian rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps. Each team has been playing each other consistently since 2001 and both were elevated to MLS together this year. Unfortunately for both sides it appears that the Cascadia Cup trophy is the last piece of silverware within grasp for each team.
As we look ahead toward the rest of the season the idea of making the play-offs is bleak for the Timbers and non-existent for Vancouver. Fact of the matter is that both teams came into MLS and acted exactly like what everybody expected. They were expansion teams through and through. Even this blogger is being forced to eat his own words barring some sort of miracle for these last ten games.
But before I begin discussing the Cascadia Cup, let's break down the rest of the season really quick.
Play-offs Out of Reach?
Looking at Wednesday's match against Sporting Kansas City, I had made mention that it was a make or break game for the Timbers with respects to the play offs. I came to this conclusion just because of the Timbers' current position in the standings and the relative position of the Western Conference teams. I hate to say it, given my affinity for the west coast of the United States, but it would be awfully nice to be an east coast city right now...But before I begin I want to stress that the TImbers aren't completely out of it yet. Yes, it's getting slimmer with each match lost and getting in under the Western Conference is fairly slim, but given the weakness of the Eastern Conference there could still be a shot at the Timbers getting into the play-offs via one of the two Eastern Conference wildcard slots.
Let's check out the current standings:
|3||Seattle Sounders FC||42||25||11||5||9||35||27||8||6-2-4||5-3-5||W-W-L-W-T|
|5||Real Salt Lake||36||22||10||6||6||30||17||13||8-2-3||2-4-3||W-L-L-W-L|
|8||San Jose Earthquakes||25||24||5||9||10||26||32||-6||3-4-7||2-5-3||T-L-L-T-L|
|9||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||18||24||3||12||9||25||40||-15||3-3-5||0-9-4||L-T-L-W-L|
|3||Sporting Kansas City||33||24||8||7||9||35||31||4||5-1-4||3-6-5||W-T-W-L-W|
|5||New York Red Bulls||31||25||6||6||13||39||35||4||5-2-5||1-4-8||T-L-T-L-T|
|8||New England Revolution||22||25||4||11||10||24||37||-13||3-4-5||1-7-5||T-T-L-L-T|
If we look at the Western Conference the hopes of getting into the play-offs here is all but finished. With 10 games left on the table that's 30 points that the Timbers could theoretically get for a maximum of 56 points. But that's only if they win all 10 of their next games. And even if they did... what are the chances that at least the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas and the Seattle Soudners aren't going to win at least five more games total, putting each of them well over our maximum amount. Combine that with the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake teams which have been playing well and we can start to see how unlikely it is that the Timbers will make it here. Remember Real Salt Lake has two games on the Timbers as well...
So instead we look to the Eastern Conference where things are much rosier. While it's still currently out of reach for the current Timbers, were they to win 4 or 5 of their next games they could realistically have a shot at that 4th and 5th wildcard spot which is open to any team from either conference. Plus they have a game in hand on both the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls which makes things a little easier.
I won't say that the Timbers are still in the thick of the race. In fact they're trailing pretty bad right now, but given some hard work, elbow grease and a little luck they could make it. Just don't get your hopes up.
Cascadia Cup Looms
So, instead of focusing on the play-offs with regards to tomorrow's game we will, instead, look to the Cascadia Cup as the best opportunity for Timbers season glory. ALthough, that said, the Timbers are facing a bit of an uphill situation on that front as well.
Here are the current standings for the 2011 Cascadia Cup:
Seattle Sounders FC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
We can see that the Timbers are currently in last place based on games played and the amount of points they've gotten out of their two games against Seattle. Seattle is, obviously, in the lead with three games players and 5 points.
So here's the deal, if Seattle wins against the Whitecaps in Vancouver the trophy is theirs. That will put them with 8 of a possibly 12 points where the Timbers can get a maximum of 7 total points as of now. However, should the Timbers win both of their Vancouver matches and should Seattle lose to Vancouver they'll be able to take home the Cascadia Cup trophy.
It's pretty bleak at the moment, but it's definitely possible at least more so than getting into the play-offs at this point.
So there you have it. The Cascadia Cup and pay-offs chances. It's pretty bleak on both ends, but I like the Timbers chances of getting the Cascadia Cup a little better. Of course, if they lose tomorrow's match then that's it for that piece of hardware. Both games against Vancouver are must-wins.