So the Portland Timbers are in the playoffs and will play in either Seattle or Denver come Saturday. With a 5-0 destruction of Chivas USA over the weekend, the Timbers are flying into the playoffs. They're on an eight-game unbeaten run over the final two months of the season, a run that includes wins against potential playoff foes Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy.
But how does this run-in compare with previous playoff seasons in Portland? Out of twenty-two previous seasons of professional soccer, the Timbers have made the playoffs eleven times. Six times they won their final regular season game, twice they were on ten-game unbeaten runs and once the Timbers won five straight games. Here's a breakdown of just how Portland has historically finished its regular seasons in playoff years:
1975: Portland lost at LA Aztecs on the season's final day, 1-0. That followed a 3-2 overtime loss at Seattle Sounders the game before. The Timbers had won 15 of 17 before the final two games of the regular season and were top of the Western Conference entering the playoffs.
Results: Portland defeated Seattle 2-1 in the quarterfinal round and St. Louis Stars, 1-0, in the semifinals before falling 2-0 to Tampa Bay Rowdies in Soccer Bowl '75 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose.
1978: John Bain scored the Timbers first ever hat-trick in a 3-1 away win against Colorado Caribous on the last day of the season. That win was only the second in the last five as Portland finished second behind Vancouver Whitecaps in their division.
Results: An overtime 2-1 play-in game win over Washington Diplomats at Civic Stadium preceded a 3-1 aggregate defeat of Vancouver in the quarterfinals. The Timbers lost 1-0 in the first semifinal leg to the New York Cosmos in Portland but were throttled 5-0 in the second leg, losing 6-0 on aggregate to the eventual NASL champions.
1981: A 2-1 win at LA Aztecs provided the Timbers with their fifth straight win to close the '81 season. Of course that followed five straight losses, so it only propelled Portland to a third place finish in their division behind Vancouver and the Calgary Boomers.
Results: The San Diego Sockers won the best-of-three series against Portland after the Timbers won the opener at home, 2-1. A 5-1 loss was followed by a 2-0 defeat in San Diego to send Portland out of the playoffs for the final time in the NASL era.
1989: Southern California was again the final stop for Portland, this time in the Western Soccer League. A 0-0 draw led to a 7-6 penalty loss to San Diego Nomads on the last day of the Timbers' first professional season in seven years. Portland lost two of its final three games but had previously won five straight to put themselves into second place in their division behind the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks.
Results: Another date with the Nomads followed with the Timbers falling 2-1 in San Diego in their only playoff appearance of the WSL/APSL era.
2001: The new Timbers qualified for the playoffs in their first campaign after a decade away. A 3-1 win at El Paso Patriots saw two goals and a red card from Scott Benedetti, concluding a stretch with just one defeat in the club's final six games. Portland finished fourth in the Western Conference behind Vancouver, San Diego FC and Milwaukee Rampage.
Results: A 5-2 aggregate First Round victory against Charlotte Eagles preceded a 3-0 aggregate loss to the Hershey Wildcats, including a 2-0 home defeat in the first leg.
2002: Former Timber Jeff Clarke scored twice on the final day of the season as Vancouver defeated Portland 3-1 at Swangard Stadium to close the 2002 season. The loss was just the third in the final thirteen games of the regular season as the Timbers finished second in their division behind only Seattle.
Results: In the First Round of the playoffs, Portland was again matched up with Vancouver, who had finished third in the division. Yet long-time Whitecap Paul Dailly scored the only goal in a 1-0 Vancouver win at PGE Park in the first leg. Steve Kindel, another Vancouver legend, scored in the return leg as Portland crashed out of the playoffs in Burnaby.