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Path to the Playoffs: Below the Red Line

MLS: Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a rough week for the Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer. The team may have grabbed their first win on the road since 2015 when they beat CD Dragon in dramatic fashion on Tuesday, but thanks to last weekend’s loss to the Houston Dynamo and a six-point jump for the Seattle Sounders, the Timbers suddenly find themselves back below the red line in the Western Conference.

With only three games to go, let’s take a look at the Timbers and the teams that they will need to fight off if they want to make the post-season.

4. Real Salt Lake

45 Points, 31 Games Played

Results Last Week: 0-0 draw against FC Dallas

at San Jose Earthquakes (1.13/1.60), vs. Sporting Kansas City (1.39/0.87), at Seattle Sounders (1.37/1.87)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.30

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.46

While RSL looked like they might be within reach for the Timbers just last week, Portland fans might just want to change direction on the Sandy side. If RSL completely collapse, it it certainly possible that the Timbers could pass them up — there is only a four point gap between the sides — the fact that an RSL collapse would entail giving up points to both the Sounders and Sporting Kansas City makes this a dangerous path for the Timbers. Instead, wins from RSL against Both of those sides would leave the Timbers in a good spot to pass up one or both of them. Of course, RSL will likely do neither of those things, leaving them out of the Timbers reach and giving a boost to one or both of the Timbers opponents, which would only serve to make things more difficult.

5. Sporting Kansas City

43 Points, 31 Games Played

Results Last Week: 2-1 Win over the San Jose Earthquakes

at New England Revolution (1.16/1.67), at Real Salt Lake (1.45/1.93), vs. San Jose Earthquakes (1.13/0.67)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.25

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.42

If there one team ahead of the Timbers that looks likely to stumble in these final weeks of the season, it is SKC. Like the Timbers, SKC have two of their remaining three matches on the road, one of which is their away match against the New England Revolution, a side that are in a playoff race of their own. SKC’s final match at home against the Earthquakes is not one that the Timbers should count on them losing, but if the Timbers can get six points from their remaining three matches then SKC look vulnerable.

6. Seattle Sounders

41 Points, 30 Games Played

Results Last Week: 4-2 win against the LA Galaxy, 1-0 against the Chicago Fire

at Vancouver Whitecaps (1.13/1.40), vs. Houston Dynamo (1.1/0.67), at FC Dallas (1.71/2.27), vs. Real Salt Lake (1.45/0.93)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.35

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.32

Compared to everyone else in the pack, the Sounders have far and away the easiest schedule, with two home games and two away games yet to play. Having caught the Timbers on points and with a game on hand, it would take an impressive series of stumbles from the Sounders, combined with some impressive results from the Timbers, to keep the Washingtonians out of the playoffs at this point. With the Sounders holding the first tie-breaker against the Timbers, they will be a dofficult team to pass up.

7. Portland Timbers

41 Points, 31 Games Played

Results Last Week: 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo

at Colorado Rapids (1.66/2.43), vs. Colorado Rapids (1.66/1.07), at Vancouver Whitecaps (1.13/1.40)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.48

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.63

Looking at the Timbers opposition in comparison to the team's against which they are competing gives a fairly succinct picture of the Timbers’ current playoff chances: slim. Coming from behind in the standings, the Timbers have by far the most difficult series of matches left to play in the final weeks of the season as they face a Rapids side that has yet to be beaten at home and a Whitecaps side that have suddenly figured something out with an attack that was dormant for most of the season. Grabbing back a playoff spot is still doable, but it will take a level of fortitude that the Timbers have rarely shown this season.