The Portland Timbers need points to stay afloat in the Western Conference.
Above the red line on a tie-breaker and just three days and one uninspired loss removed from having a home playoff match within their reach, the Timbers are now in danger of slipping back out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. If the Timbers want to stay relevant in the West, they will need to take all three points today against a New York Red Bulls side in equally dire straits.
On Sunday, D.C. United came to town willing to bunker in and take a draw as they grind their way into securing a playoff spot out East. United got more than they had hoped for, taking advantage of a pair of Timbers defensive gaffes to go ahead before clamping down on the match and stifling the limited attacking impulses that the Timbers could bring to bear.
There is some hope that the Timbers will be able to move past that disappointment in today’s match against the Red Bulls. After being held out of the 18 on Sunday and playing only half an hour the week before due to a stomach virus, Timbers leading scorer Brian Fernandez is set to return to the squad against New York, as is full back and key defensive depth piece Zarek Valentin. Less certain, but still possible to return, are two of the Timbers’ top five players: Larrys Mabiala, out since early August with a hamstring injury, and Sebastian Blanco, out for the last two matches with a calf injury.
With the return of Fernandez, the Timbers gain back a player capable of changing the game through sheer force of will. More than just that, however, the Timbers need to find a way to adapt to their opponents. While the side have won big when their preferred tactics have aligned with what their opponents are doing, the Timbers have struggled to put together anything other than individual — and unsustainable — moments when their tactics do not align.
Storylines: “Can the Timbers find it in themselves to put D.C. United behind them and secure all three points at home? Or will the Red Bulls come in and take care of business, once again leaving Timbers fans hungry for a win at Providence Park?”
Watch it on: KPDX
Where: Providence Park in Portland, OR
When: Wednesday, September 18th at 7:30 p.m. PT
Portland Timbers: 13-12-4, 7th place in the Western Conference, lost 1-0 vs. D.C. United
New York Red Bulls: 12-13-5, 6th place in the Eastern Conference, lost 4-2 at Seattle Sounders