Sigh … Same as it ever was.
Because of RSL picking up an unlikely win against NYCFC last week, Portland dipped back below the playoff line. The upshot is that the Timbers still have at least one game in hand over all the teams above them, and they don’t have to leave Portland until the end of September. The reality though is that Portland has to make that game in hand and the homestand count, and I’m feeling just a wee bit stressed about it. (Please please break down a bunker. Thanks very much.)
I really don’t want to be scoreboard-watching until October rolls around, but due to the tight Western Conference playoff race and steadily mounting pressure on the Timbers, ’tis my fate until we are safely above the playoff line. So as we’re about to embark on the most crucial stretch of the Timbers’ season, let’s all scoreboard-watch together, shall we?
Here’s your rooting guide for Week 23 (all times PDT):
Seattle Sounders v. New England Revolution (Saturday, 1:00 p.m.)
I really don’t need to explain who to root for here. It heartens my soul that Seattle has dropped two straight home games. I’m hoping that we get a hat trick of disappointment in the Sound.
Preferred result: A 3-1 New England win. Seattle fans (and all of MLS, to be honest) still don’t really understand how Roman Torres got suspended for PEDs and still got burned so dang bad by Brian Fernandez on two separate goals a couple weeks ago. You hate to see it.
Columbus Crew SC v. FC Cincinnati (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
Hell is Real! It’s the first matchup between the Ohio rivals, and I’m actually super excited for it. Two teams that are most likely not going to make the playoffs and have something to prove. Plus, it’s Caleb Porter in a rivalry game, which you know is going to get interesting.
Preferred result: A crazy entertaining 3-2 Columbus win. Gyasi Zardes scores with his hamstring, Kendall Waston scores a goal and an own goal, and Columbus gets the last-second winner via David Guzman. After the match, Caleb Porter can’t contain his excitement and just screams at Cincinnati’s coaching staff for three straight minutes.
Toronto FC v. Orlando City SC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
How weird has Toronto’s past two seasons been? They go from possibly the best MLS team of all time to spontaneously combusting, all over the course of 12 months. And I don’t think they’ve fully put themselves back together yet. Orlando is pissed from the USOC and is also fighting for their playoff lives, so this one is poised pretty well.
Preferred result: Orlando wins 1-0 off of a literal last-second header. Dwyer claims that it came off of his head, but it turns out it was Omar Gonzalez with an own goal, thus fulfilling his destiny as a USMNT player who disappoints people time and time again.
FC Dallas v. Minnesota United FC (Saturday, 5:00 p.m.)
Okay, I know we’re all maybe still a bit salty about USOC on Wednesday. But I recommend putting your pride aside: Minnesota winning is good for Portland here. Dallas is close to falling off a cliff, and I hope that the Loons give them a nice little push.
Preferred Result: Minnesota wins 1-0. Yes, it’s a PK. And yes, it’s off of yet another dubious handball. (I promise I’m not salty. Really. Not at all.)
Sporting Kansas City v. Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 5:30 p.m.)
The best non-rivalry rivalry in MLS. Whenever these two teams play, there is usually fireworks. SKC kept their season on life support after last weekend’s win in Seattle, and I thiiiink I want them to keep it alive just a bit longer so they can make things more difficult for RSL.
Preferred result: A 2-1 SKC win, with all of the goals scored by players with the last name Besler (Matt Besler header off a corner; Nick Besler header off a corner; Nick Besler own goal).
Chicago Fire v. Montreal Impact (Saturday, 6:00 p.m.)
Every week, I told you to root for a Maxi Urruti screamer — and every week, he let me down. So last week I stopped rooting for it. He had hurt me too many times. And — wouldn’t you know it — the dude goes and scores a screamer. Who would have thought?
Preferred result: Montreal wins 2-1. Maxi Urruti and Dax McCarty trade screamers. Urruti gets the winner off of a stoppage time header. He does his patented “Archer” celebration. Somewhere in the stands, an overly exuberant Montreal fan pantomimes being wounded by the imaginary arrow and dramatically falls down. All of the Chicago fans stare at the fan lying there motionless and slowly start to back away.
Colorado Rapids v. San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 6:00 p.m.)
Colorado survived the literal plague last week. I feel like anything that follows for them this season is just window dressing after that. San Jose finally looked a bit wobbly, and the Rapids are just about safely in Portland’s rear-view mirror. Root for the plague survivors.
Preferred result: A 2-0 rapids win. Kei Kamara follows up his hat trick of goals last week with a hat trick of earned penalties. He takes all three, but only scores two of them, because on his last one he thought he saw one of the diseased prairie dogs out of the corner of his eye and got spooked.
Atlanta United v. NYCFC (Sunday, 12:55 p.m.)
Despite all of the anger from their fanbase over Frank de Boer, Atlanta has somehow found themselves in another cup final. And despite that success, I still suspect that their fanbase still will boo heartily if Atlanta loses to NYCFC. Wouldn’t that be just a lovely sound to hear?
Preferred result: NYCFC escapes with a 1-0 smash-and-grab win via a stoppage time counter-attack. All of the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium indeed boo their hearts out. And it is indeed a lovely sound to hear.
Philadelphia Union v. Houston Dynamo (Sunday, 3:00 p.m.)
This one is pretty straightforward: Root for the Western Conference team to drop points and also maybe get a red card or two in the process. Houston lost on Thursday, and them fully dropping off the pace of the playoff race would do wonders for my anxiety. Plus, you get the added bonus of rooting for Alejandro Bedoya, who is probably the best human in MLS right now.
Preferred result: Philadelphia wins 2-0. Newest Houston player Christian Ramirez is shown a red card for an intentional handball to block a goal. Tommy McNamara still feels sad about cutting his hair.
DC United v. LA Galaxy (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.)
Is Wayne Rooney leaving a good thing for MLS? A bad thing? Are player-coaches the hot new thing in world soccer? And can Diego Valeri or Diego Chara be that for the Timbers someday? Anyway, root for DC to beat LA.
Preferred result: DC wins 3-2. Rooney gets a hat trick, and Zlatan does not. Zlatan wishes he were back on the beach drinking his mojito. Rooney can’t wait to try all of the very similar beer options in Derby.
LAFC v. New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 7:00 p.m.)
Last game of the weekend, and my pick for “peak MLS” game of the week. This thing is just as equally likely to be a blowout, an entertaining draw, or a back and forth win for one team. I hope this one gets weird.
Preferred result: A 4-3 Red Bulls win. Seven different players score. At the end of the game, Bob Bradley and Chris Armas just stare at each other, grin, and shake their heads. As two bald coaches in MLS, they know each other’s feelings just by sharing the glance. They know they’ve witnessed something crazy. They know they’ve witnessed something almost impossible to understand. What they’ve witnessed ... is a soccer blogger’s wish come true.
There’s your guide for this weekend! Have any other ideas? If one of the Diegos were to be a Timbers player/coach, which one should it be? Let me know below!