For the first time in what feels like forever, the Portland Timbers are not playing a match this weekend. After a seemingly interminable stretch of games played on just two or three days rest, Timbers players and fans will get to rest easy until their next match against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday.
But as you may know, we are in the final stretch of the MLS season, and there’s still plenty of teams jockeying for the best spot possible in the MLS Cup Playoffs. So, with no Timbers match to watch, what are some of the games you should be keeping an eye on this weekend? Here are the matches to watch (or at least pay attention to) if you’re a Timbers fan.
FC Cincinnati vs. Minnesota United
Location: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati Kickoff time: 4:30 p.m. Pacific (Saturday) TV Broadcast: ESPN+ Rival SB Nation sites: E Pluribus Loonum
On the surface, this isn’t a particularly spectacular matchup. FC Cincinnati is one of the worst teams in the league, and Minnesota United for the most part is pretty solid. What’s most intriguing is how the results will affect the Loons’ position in the standings.
Right now, they’re tied with two other teams at 24 points (FC Dallas and San Jose). Depending on what happens in those teams’ matches, Minnesota could either surpass both those squads and break the tie, or tumble down to the bottom. That tumbling could put them into a potential matchup with Portland once the playoffs come around.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids
Location: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City Kickoff time: 6:30 p.m. Pacific (Saturday) TV Broadcast: ESPN+ Rival SB Nation sites: The Blue Statement, Burgundy Wave
This is the one that’s probably most important for Timbers fans to keep an eye on. Sporting KC is just two points behind both Portland and the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference standings. With a win against Colorado, they could take sole possession of first place in the conference. After failing to jump to first place last weekend, Sporting KC will surely be looking for an opportunity to take sole possession of the top spot.
Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas
Location: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy Kickoff time: 6:30 p.m. Pacific (Saturday) TV Broadcast: ESPN+ Rival SB Nation sites: RSL Soapbox, Big D Soccer
While the above match is arguably the most important, this match is probably the most interesting for a couple reasons. First, as mentioned earlier, the Western Conference is extremely jam-packed right now in the middle, with three teams tied at 24 points. FC Dallas is one of those teams, and, depending on what happens to the other two teams (San Jose and Minnesota), they could stand out from the pack. Second, RSL is still fighting for their playoff lives and could eke past Vancouver if the Whitecaps either tie or lose to the Earthquakes.
Since every team is currently so close to one another in the playoffs, it’s reasonable to assume that either one of these teams could be Portland’s matchup when the playoffs start. The Timbers haven’t played Dallas at all in 2020, but they have had less-than-favorable results against RSL all season long. This game is worth keeping an eye on just to get a feel for two potential playoff opponents.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Location: Providence Park, Portland Kickoff time: 7:00 p.m. Pacific (Saturday) TV Broadcast: ESPN+ Rival SB Nation sites: Eighty Six Forever, Center Line Soccer
This one is important for similar reasons as the game above, though I would argue that it doesn’t have the same level of importance. Both teams are potential matchups for Portland in the playoffs, and the result of this game will play a big role in determining that.
Portland, however, has a 3-1-0 combined record (W-D-L) against the clubs this season, so it isn’t the marquee matchup to show concern over. Still, it’s worth monitoring, especially if Vancouver either loses or draws and falls out of the eighth spot, leaving it open for RSL to overtake them.
LAFC vs. LA Galaxy
Location: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. Pacific (Sunday) TV Broadcast: ABC Rival SB Nation sites: Angels on Parade, LAG Confidential
LAFC is the important team to pay attention to here. They’re sitting at fourth right now with 25 points, just one point more than all the teams in a three-way tie for fifth at the moment. If LAFC drops this match and subsequent ones, there’s a universe where they get locked into a playoff matchup with Portland. LAFC is a dangerous squad despite the inconsistent results this season, and if the Timbers get matched up with them, they better watch out.
So there you have it. These are the main matches to pay attention to this weekend, and it’s kind of a lot. But every team is so close to one another that the table could look totally different by the end of this weekend. Every result will play a role in determining who plays whom when the playoffs start. Just another crazy weekend of MLS soccer.