Welcome to Contemplation Day, the day before next week’s Decision Day!
Like next week, however, all of the games involving Western Conference teams are starting at the same time (4:30 PT, if you’ve been under a rock). So this is less a “How to Watch” piece because (I assume) you’ll be watching the Timbers, and more of a grammatically-awkward “For Whom to Root” bit.
Before you rush to the comments with your “Whatever, the Timbers just need to win” takes: Yes, the Timbers need to win. If they don’t, well, bad things will ensue. But other things matter, too.
Anyway, here’s how the Portland Timbers fan should watch Contemplation Day.
This might be the most difficult game for which to peg the Timbers’ rooting interest. On one hand, keeping RSL pushing for a playoff spot is vital considering the Claret-and-Cobalt take on Sporting Kansas City next week in a game that could have huge implications for the Timbers. If both the Timbers and SKC win on Contemplation Day, Portland will need RSL to take points from SKC in Sandy next week in order to have a chance to earn a first-round bye. So a competitive RSL is likely very important for the Timbers.
On the other hand, though, if RSL gets in, they’ll be the low seed that nobody wants to play. At 7-2-4 since the beginning of July, RSL are among the hotter teams in MLS, and seeing them fall out of the playoff picture would be more than welcome for teams further up the table.
Desired Result: RSL takes as many points as FC Dallas, but not more. The first priority for the Timbers is keeping Real Salt Lake in the hunt, so that wins out with respect to rooting interest. Still, one point below the red line is a pretty ideal spot for Mike Petke’s side. So the hope is they keep pace with the Burn.
Seattle Sounders v. FC Dallas
The Burn, by the way, visit Seattle on Sunday. ACES, right?
Well, pretty much right. As long as the Timbers win on Sunday, this game matters little because the Timbers have a point on the Sounders. If PTFC drops points, however, then the obviously preferred result is for the Sounders to also stumble.
As discussed above, though proximity between Dallas and RSL is good, which is likelier if Dallas takes at least a point from Seattle. And if Dallas takes all three and the Timbers beat D.C. United, the Sounders won’t be able to catch Portland regardless of next week’s results (the Timbers will be guaranteed to hold the tiebreaker). Bonus: Seattle would have a nonzero chance of falling out of the top four.
Desired Result: An unlikely FC Dallas win.
Sporting Kansas City v. Houston Dynamo
The Timbers need to pass Sporting Kansas City to jump into second, so obviously the Timbers would like to see SKC drop points against Houston today. But the Dynamo are also just a point behind the Timbers now, which is why Houston’s win in the front half of this home-and-home was good, but not necessarily ideal. As a result, a little breathing room would be welcome.
Desired Result: Draw. It would give the Timbers a chance to jump into second and to put the Dynamo in their dust for good with a win over D.C. United.
LOL, who gives a rip?
Desired Result: Something we can put Benny Hill music to.
If the Whitecaps win, they’ll secure the Western Conference regular-season crown this year. So the Timbers obvs want the Whitecaps not to win, right?
[Lee Corso voice] Not so fast, sweetheart.
I mean, sort of. There’s at least a counterargument here. Because (a) the Whitecaps are Canadian; and (b) there is no CCL berth for winning the conference regular-season title this year anyway, the regular-season conference crown is a substantially diminished prize this year (and next). This is especially so because it’s far from clear which side of the conference playoff bracket (if any) is preferable and, therefore, it’s hard to predict whether there will be any advantage to being first or second in the West. So at this point the primary value of that top-seed is bragging rights.
Moreover, if the ‘Caps win today, they’ll have less to play for in Portland next week. And given that high-stakes games between the Timbers and Whitecaps have a knack for becoming knock down, drag out affairs, a Vancouver team coming to Portland with the primary goal of staying healthy is pretty desirable.
All that said, we want the Timbers to win the West, right? Let’s call it a draw. That’ll give the Timbers an opportunity to get to next week with a chance to win the West while likely keeping San Jose in the race for the sixth seed (see also Real Salt Lake).
Desired Result: Draw, albeit with a real silver lining if the Whitecaps pull out the win (which, given San Jose’s road form, is extremely likely).