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Storylines: Portland Timbers vs San Jose Earthquakes

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It all comes down to Match 34.

MLS: Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far

Things could have gone better in Kansas City where the Timbers were able to limp out of Children's Mercy Park with a point. Sebastian Blanco and Dairon Asprilla had the goals in the 2-2 draw. The Asprilla goal was a PK, that was earned by Jeremy Ebobisse. With the draw the Timbers are in sole possession of sixth place in the Western Conference, but that could all change come Sunday.

San Jose are coming off a disappointing loss to Seattle at home. Jordan Morris of the Seattle Sounders scored late into stoppage time to steal all three points in San Jose. The Earthquakes are just under the playoff line with 44 points; a win in Portland for the Quakes would ensure them a playoff spot.

It’s all comes down to Decision Day. Can the Portland Timbers write their ticket to the playoffs, or will San Jose come into Providence Park and walk out with a playoff spot secured?

What To Watch For

San Jose Earthquakes (13-15-5, 44 pts)

San Jose vs Seattle

Right now the Quakes are on the outside looking in, and there are rumors swirling around the club. It seems that C.F. Monterrey of Liga MX are looking for a head coach and that coach is Matías Almeyda.

According to their coach, success of the season doesn’t all hinge on decision day.

“No,” Almeyda told MLSsoccer.com this week. “I see success in achieving what we had promised, which was to make this team competitive and perform the same way at home and on the road, aside from the results.

“In reality, the team took a big step forward as individuals, as a collective and as a club,” he added. “From our perspective, there was a fantastic atmosphere in our last match.”

Source: MLSsoccer.com

Coming into Sunday’s match with the Timbers, the San Jose Earthquakes are riding a five match losing streak and are looking to end that run in Portland. The last time these two teams met this season, it wasn’t pretty: San Jose pasted the Timbers 3-0 at Avaya Stadium.

The Quakes have been terrible on the road this season, compiling a 3-10-3 away record. Not that the Timbers have been much better, but the Timbers aren’t the ones on the road this time around.

Against the Seattle Sounders, Almeyda ran out a 4-4-2, which is the first time all season he’s rolled out that particular formation. Typically, the Quakes run a 4-2-3-1, with Chris Wondolowski leading the attack from the lone striker position. Wondo is always one to be on the lookout for. He can turn a game on its head at any moment and leads the Earthquakes with 14 goals. To put it simply, he’s a pest.

Other players to look out for include Cristian Espinoza who came to San Jose through Villarreal in La Liga on loan. He’s gone on this season to be a rock in the midfield and an important part of the San Jose attack. While he may have only scored two goals this season, he’s added 12 assists.

I’d expect a fully stacked starting 11, as there are no Earthquakes on the injury list going into Sunday’s matchup.

Portland Timbers (13-13-7, 46 pts)

Timbers vs Sporting KC

It all comes down to Sunday. Win (or draw) and in, lose and pray that other teams stumble and drop points (full scenario in Log Slices below). Best case is for the Timbers to win this outright. Wins though, have come at a premium - like the Earthquakes, the Timbers have one win in their last six.

For the most part, the Timbers are a healthy squad. Only two players are listed as questionable: Julio Cascante and Andre Flores. I’m not holding my breath on Cascante being ready on Sunday, but I’ve been wrong before. I figure the center of the defense will be Larrys Mabiala and Bill Tuiloma. Of course the Timbers will be without one of their leading scorers in Brian Fernandez, who is out on red card suspension, but I’m not worried.

Jeremy Ebobisse is tied on goals with Fernandez with 11 on the season. Ebobisse’s growth this season has been fun to watch, and you can’t help but root for the kid as he’s made the best of going from being the main man to taking a back seat to Fernandez. Ebobisse has also appeared in every match for the Timbers in 2019.

I would expect Diego Valeri to return to the lineup after sitting on the bench against Sporting Kansas City. And I hate to be the one to say it, this could possibly be the last time we see the Maestro suit-up in the green and gold.

The season comes down to a 90-minute performance. A win or a tie and the Timbers make the playoffs, it’s that simple. They drop points and it’s time to scoreboard watching, an FC Dallas loss or tie against SKC, will be good enough to advance the Timbers as well.

Log Slices

The Timbers are 4-2-2 in regular-season finales, dating back to 2011. Portland has won four consecutive home regular-season finales. In those four games, the Timbers have outscored their opponents by a 10-2 margin. In 2018, Portland clinched a postseason berth with a 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake in its home regular-season finale on Oct. 21, receiving goals from Sebastián Blanco, Diego Chara, and Larrys Mabiala.

Sunday’s match marks the 23rd meeting all-time between Portland and San Jose. The Timbers lead the all-time series with a record of 10-5-7. Portland is unbeaten in 11 matches (8-0-3) at Providence Park against the Earthquakes, including six straight wins during that span. Notably, at home in the all-time series, the Timbers have outscored San Jose 20-8, scoring two or more goals in three of their last four matches against the Earthquakes at Providence Park, dating back to April 16, 2016.

Portland will clinch a berth in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs if:

Portland win or tie vs. San Jose

– OR –

FC Dallas lose or tie vs. Sporting KC