The home games are starting to come thick and fast for the Portland Timbers, and they honestly could not be coming at a better time. Just five points separate second place from eighth in the Western Conference — and the Timbers stand right in the thick of it. With nine of their remaining ten games being played in the cozy confines of Providence Park, Portland is in a prime position to start rocketing up the standings like a Sebastian Blanco banger flying into the net.
So, who can we catch? In this week’s rooting guide, I’ll outline where the Timbers stand in relation to each Western Conference team, how likely Portland is to catch them/stay above them in the standings, and what could help make that happen (Eastern Conference teams, y’all just keep doing you. You have your own problems to worry about.) This is, of course, in addition to your regular dose of me declaring whom you should root for and my outlandishly hopeful predictions.
Here’s who Timbers fans should root for this weekend in MLS (All times PDT):
New York Red Bulls v. New England Revolution (Saturday, 4:00 p.m.)
Portland still has yet to play either of these teams, and both are still fighting for something this season. For the Revs, it’s keeping in the playoff spots. For the Red Bulls, it’s respectability. This game a real shot to be competitive, entertaining, and of course silly (because it’s MLS).
Prefered result: Red Bulls win 2-1. All three goals are scored in stoppage time, and all three goals are somehow all scored by Bradley Wright-Phillips.
FC Cincinnati v. NYCFC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
Two Eastern conference teams that are squarely in Portland’s rear-view mirror. The loss in Cincinnati might go down as the worst loss of the season, while the win in NYC was maybe the most impressive. For Timbers fans, this game is just pure entertainment ... and hopefully a chance to see a former Timber or two score.
Preferred result: Cincinnati wins 3-2. All of Cincy’s goals are scored by former Timbers: Fanendo Adi, Darren Mattocks, and yes, Alvas “I’m still here!” Powell.
Columbus Crew SC v. Toronto FC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
Apparently a rivalry game? Also, two teams that Portland beat back to back on the road. It would be nice to see Caleb Porter get something out of his first season in Columbus. Based off the playoff standings, the Trillium Cup trophy is apparently his best shot.
Preferred result: A 1-0 Columbus win. Continuing the trend of former Timbers scoring, David Guzman gets the winner off of a corner kick, which he redirects into the goal via his face.
Montreal Impact v. FC Dallas (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
Dallas: One point behind Portland; two more games played. Looking like the likeliest candidate for being left out of the playoffs, despite their talent level. If the Timbers take care of business, they shouldn’t be a problem, but I wouldn’t mind a few more dropped points from the Burn.
Preferred result: Montreal wins 2-1. In a shocking twist reversing the trend, Maxi Urruti does not score. The players who can actually finish for Montreal do instead (too harsh?).
Chicago Fire v. Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 5:00 p.m.)
Color me a bit impressed (and more than a bit concerned) by Chicago’s fight back on Wednesday. It made the game way more interesting than it needed to be, and they might actually have the talent to crack the playoffs. I love a good underdog story, so why not root for them?
Preferred result: A 3-0 Philadelphia win. Why not root for Chicago? *Begin rant* Because they’re a floundering franchise who isn’t investing in the right spots and has been stuck in the periphery of relevance for what seems like a decade now, and the management has done frighteningly little to change that. I’m afraid that a modicum of success, like making the playoffs, might persuade ownership that they are on track, and that major changes don’t need to be made (this literally already happened in 2017–18). As a fan of wanting to see the league grow, I want to see the Fire actually improve. So root for Philly to blitz them and hopefully force management to make positive changes. *Rant over*
Minnesota United v. Orlando City SC (Saturday, 5:00 p.m.)
Minnesota: Four points ahead of Portland; one more game played. There’s always a chance the Timbers catch up, especially if Portland goes on an absolute tear at home. But based on how Minnesota has looked so far this season and how they’re going to be desperate to make their first playoff appearance, I don’t put the odds of catching them very high.
Preferred result: Orlando wins 2-0 off a Dom Dwyer brace. Odds aren’t high, but hey, dropping a result at home is one solid way to improve them, right? Side note: We all agree that we want Minnesota to win the Open Cup over Atlanta right? I couldn’t stand to watch Atlanta win another trophy ...
Sporting Kansas City v. San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 5:30 p.m.)
SKC: Nine points behind Portland; one more game played. Stick a fork in ’em; they’re done. Wild that SKC looks to be missing the playoffs. Best scenario for Portland is that they are just playing for pride by the time the Timbers play them in September.
SJ: One point ahead of Portland; same number of games played. A team that I’ve never thought was better than the Timbers and probably won’t finish the season ahead of them. Chances are really good that Portland passes them, especially since the Timbers still have a home game against them on Decision Day.
Preferred result: A 2-0 SKC win. I say root for SKC because we are equal on games played with San Jose. Dropped points help here. Mathematically, Sporting’s season will be hanging by a thread, but in their hearts, the boys from the Midwest will know that it’s over.
Houston Dynamo v. Colorado Rapids (Saturday, 6:00 p.m.)
Houston: Seven points behind Portland; one more game played. Their season is in full death-spiral, and they just fired their coach, which this late in the season is the soccer equivalent of throwing in the towel. Should be safely in the rear-view mirror.
Colorado: Eleven points behind Portland; one more game played. Somehow had Portland’s number this year, and managed to scrape off two draws against the Timbers. But with the distance between them and Portland, it matters more now which team they’re playing and can take points off of.
Preferred result: Colorado wins 2-0. At halftime, interim Houston coach, Davy Arnaud, tries to sub himself on, but then he realizes that 1) he can’t actually do that, and that 2) he is just going to get a red card anyway, so what’s the point?
LA Galaxy v. Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 7:00 p.m.)
LA: Three points ahead of Portland; one more game played. The Galaxy are an enigma. One week, they’re banging in goals left and right; the next, Zlatan doesn’t give a flip and they suck. To be consistently high in the standings, you have to be — y’know — consistent. I think they drop a couple more stinkers this season, and Portland passes them.
Flounders: Two (!!) points ahead of Portland; one more game played. Well well, look who’s now sliding down a mountain, hurtling towards a cliff. If results go a certain way this week, the odds are pretty dang good that Portland’s can leapfrog Seattle for good next Friday. Heck, Portland might already be ahead of them going into that game. I’m not getting excited. I promise.
Preferred result: LA wins 3-0. A game where Zlatan actually cares and scores two goals in the first half. He has a wide open chance to get his hat-trick in the second half, but Cristian Pavon instead takes the chance scores his first MLS goal. Zlatan then hates him forever.
Real Salt Lake v. LAFC (Saturday, 7:00 p.m.)
RSL: Three points ahead of Portland; one more game played. They also fired their coach, but are much better positioned than Houston, so they’re also in the thick of it. But they’ve been defined by their inconsistency this season. With one game in hand, and a home game against them remaining, Portland is really well positioned to pass them before all is said and done.
LAFC: Eighteen (LOL) points ahead of Portland; same number of games played. No one is catching LAFC, folks. Barring a cataclysmic collapse of near biblical proportions, they are going to run away with the Supporter’s Shield. All we can root for now is for them to steamroll any Western conference teams in their way.
Preferred result: LAFC wins 4-1. RSL is denied two pretty clear penalties by VAR. But instead of a fiery, office-machine-themed tirade, interim coach, Freddy Juarez, instead gives a calm, logical explanation of why he is mildly displeased. It really is a new era for RSL.
Vancouver Whitecaps v. D.C. United (Saturday, 7:00 p.m.)
Vancouver: Thirteen points behind Portland; two more games played. Oh, Vancouver. You played maybe your second best game of the season against Portland back in May, but now the only race you are currently in is the race for the Wooden Spoon, which you are also currently losing. Hope you have fun this weekend against a healthy and rested Wayne Rooney and a resurgent DC United.
Preferred result: DC United wins 2-0. Rooney and Lucho Acosta get the goals. At the end of the game, all the Vancouver players can do is just sit on the field, finally accepting the grim reality that dawns over all of them at the same time: “Dude … we really are worse than Colorado.”
So by my thinking and outlandish predictions, if the Timbers take care of business, they have the chance to climb as high as third — or possibly even second place — in the Western Conference before the season is over. What do you think? Any of my suggestions insane? Let me know!