It has been broken down in the comments following Wednesday's 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake, but lets take a look at the standings in the Western Conference, the games left to be played, and just what we want to happen for the Portland Timbers -- beyond plain old earning points.
First, the table:
The Western Conference is still packed in tight with just two games to go for all but a pair of teams; so far only three teams qualified for the playoffs and only one team has been eliminated. The Timbers, situated right above the red line, could still manage a finish anywhere between 2nd place and 9th, depending on how many points they can rack up in their final two matches and just how the results fall in the rest of the Western Conference.
There is plenty going on around MLS this weekend and several big matches whose outcomes the Timbers will have plenty riding on. Beyond that, with playoff berths and positioning on the line for teams in both conferences there should be plenty of hotly contested matches around the league.
Friday, October 16th
New York City FC at Orlando City FC
4:00 p.m. PT, UniMas/MLS Live
Running late on this one. Oops. -Will
Probably the least consequential match of the weekend as far as Timbers fans are concerned; this one features an NYCFC team that has been eliminated from the playoffs against an Orlando City FC team that is going to need a whole bunch of help to somehow make it above the red line. If anyone can do it, however, it is the red hot Lions, who have won their last four matches -- which is good because they will need to win their remaining two in order to even have a chance at 6th place.
8:00 p.m. PT, UniMas/MLS Live
This could end up being the match of the weekend for Timbers fans, whose feelings on this one will largely be dependent on how optimistic they are feeling about Sunday's match against the Galaxy. If San Jose wins they they are back on level terms with the Timbers on points and with a definite advantage in goal differential, putting pressure on Portland to get results in their final matches, but leaving Sporting vulnerable and possibly able to be passed up in the standings -- by Portland or other teams that the Timbers might match up against better in the playoffs.
Of course, if SKC -- the last team in the league with only 31 games played -- win then they are in prime position to move up the table, potentially knocking the Vancouver Whitecaps -- the first team in the league with 33 games played -- into the play-in brackets where the Timbers could get a crack at them. Plus, in this scenario the Timbers would only need a single point from their last two games to assure that they finish above San Jose.
Saturday, October 17th
11:00 a.m. PT, MLS Live
As with all Eastern Conference games, this one won't directly affect the Timbers, but it will have serious implications for the seeding out east. Toronto have made the playoffs for the first time ever and will be looking to maintain their current second place position -- first is attainable but not probable with the Red Bulls needing only only two points from their last two games to sew up the conference. The Crew, meanwhile, are within striking distance of the 2nd place spot and with out a doubt would like to avoid a potential extra match against a team like the Impact or the Revolution. Plus, this is one of those MLS rivalries that you can never quite tell if it is real or just marketing.
4:30 p.m. PT, MLS Live
Much like the Columbus/Toronto fixture, this one will be vital to determining the final standings out east, with both teams looking to move up the ranks. Montreal in particular will be looking for a win here as they are still vulnerable to dropping below the red line in this one.
FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake
6:30 p.m. PT, MLS Live
Finally back in the Western Conference match ups, we see FC Dallas eying the Supporters' Shield and Real Salt Lake hoping against hope that they are able to pull back some points and leapfrog the Timbers into the playoffs. Dallas is the strongest competition that the Red Bulls have for the Supporters' Shield this year, with an equal number of points (54) and an equal number of games (2) remaining. Still, the Red Bulls have a remarkably easy schedule to finish out the year, taking on the bottom two teams in the East to close things out, while Dallas have a somewhat harder road of it, taking on a team with just a tiny bit of hope remaining in RSL then yet another team below the red line but not yet eliminated in San Jose.
Sunday, October 18th
11:00 a.m. PT, MLS Live
The Fire have basically nothing to play for at this point; they would need to win out in order to move above the Union and Rapids and avoid the wooden spoon. D.C., however, are still gunning for better playoff positioning. And to get themselves back on track after a terrible second half of the season that saw them fall out of the Supporters' Shield race and almost out of the playoffs.
12:00 p.m. PT, MLS Live
Like the Fire, the Union have basically nothing going on other than scouting out their picks for next year's Superdraft. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, will want all three points from this one as they look to stay ahead of Dallas in the race for the Supporters' Shield, one that could well be decided on goal differential if both teams win out.
2:00 p.m. PT, ESPN
Finally, the pregame to Timbers-Galaxy, this match sees the Dynamo needing to win out in order to potentially squeak into the playoffs and Seattle in a surprisingly precarious position above the Timbers only on goal differential. The Sounders do not have an easy go of it in their last two matches, but hold just about every possible tie breaker with the Timbers, so staying even on points would suit them just fine, aside from the fact that they are undeniably stronger at home and are currently slated to play away if today's standings hold.
Which games are you planning on watching this weekend? Who are you rooting for?