The Colorado Rapids beat Sporting Kansas City last night in a 2-0 result that saw SKC better themselves against a stalwart Rapids back line before being broken down twice on the counter. The play may not have been flashy, but the result was just what the Portland Timbers needed as the team stares down their final match of the year and the still un-secured playoff berth that is so close to being won.
With every team in the league now set to play one last regular season match on Sunday, if the Timbers win they are assured of at least the number four spot in the Western Conference and the home playoff berth that comes along with it. All the teams below the Timbers are behind them on points, including SKC and the Seattle Sounders, so a win assures the Timbers that the leagues' tiebreaker rules will not come into effect from that direction.
Of course, there is still one significant hurdle to the Timbers' postseason positioning: the Rapids. Despite their positioning firmly in the basement of the Western Conference, a spot from which they are guaranteed not to emerge despite yesterday's win, the Rapids have been a difficult team to beat all year. With only 39 goals allowed on the season, the Rapids have allowed the 6th fewest goals in the league this year, just one behind the Timbers and FC Dallas at 38 apiece.
Fun Fact: Teams in the West average 42.2 goals scored and 40.2 goals allowed this season. In the East teams have averaged 48.1 goals scored and 50.1 allowed.
Looking past Colorado would certainly be a recipe for disaster from the Timbers, particularly in the absence of Diego Valeri following his suspension for yellow card accumulation, and to assume that the match will be simple or easy would set the team up for failure.
As the Timbers know, a team that has struggled to score in MLS is always just one match away from breaking out.
If the Timbers do overcome the Rapids, however, there is every possibility that they could move up the table, rather than just standing still in the fourth place spot. The top of the Western Conference has been sewn up by FC Dallas, but second and third remain with in reach for the Timbers and a win against Colorado gives them a significant chance to move on up.
In third are the Vancouver Whitecaps; tied with the Timbers on points but in a typical Vancouver late-season slide. Hosting the Houston Dynamo, the Whitecaps are winless in their last five matches and have been the worst home team in the Western Conference, other than the Rapids, over the course of the year. Houston may also have some troubles, like being stuck below the red line with no hope of moving up, but they have still managed a few results recently, including wins over SKC and Colorado this month.
If the Whitecaps lose, a win or a tie moves the Timbers above them. If the Whitecaps tie, a win moves the Timbers above them.
In second are the LA Galaxy. Just as the West looked like it would finally spread out, the Galaxy and Whitecaps stumbled and once again we have remarkable levels of congestion, with seventh through second place all existing within a five point spread. For the LA Galaxy this is bad news as the team, who only managed two wins on the road this year, are looking at the very real possibility of dropping all the way down to fifth or even sixth place is the results go badly against them. To that end, the Galaxy are headed to Kansas City to take on an SKC team that, with a big margin of victory, still has a chance of moving past LA in the standings.
If the Galaxy lose or tie, a win moves the Timbers above them. If the Galaxy somehow lose by thirteen goals, a tie moves the Timbers above them.
For a full game by game breakdown of Decision Day, check out JSwish's guide over in the FanPosts.