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Portland have dug themselves a hole through the first third of the season. Is there enough time and evidence to think they can make it to the playoffs?

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC in the East and LA Galaxy in the West are lagging behind in the Games Played category (TFC have played just 10 games thus far; LA, 11). With the Galaxy's 1-1 draw against Chicago on Sunday the Western Conference finally has all of its teams on at least 11 games—putting the first third of the MLS season in the record books. Looking at each club's first 11 games, here would be the Western Conference standings:

  1. RSL - 23 pts.
  2. SEA - 22
  3. VAN - 17
  4. DAL - 16
  5. LA - 16
  6. COL - 15
  7. SJ - 13
  8. CHV - 10
  9. POR - 10

Portland would be dead last (taking tie-breakers into account). The optimists in the Rose City might quickly point out that the Timbers have since won back-to-back road games for an additional six points. True, but even if we try to level the playing field and include all up-to-date results, Portland is no better than 8th in the conference based on Points Per Game.

  1. SEA - 2.07 PPG
  2. RSL - 1.85
  3. VAN - 1.67
  4. COL - 1.62
  5. LA - 1.45
  6. SJ - 1.33
  7. DAL - 1.2
  8. POR - 1.14
  9. CHV - .77

There are a lot of games left to be played, but at some point during the season every team below the red line has to consolidate "all they have to do" to get into the playoff picture, with the lack of evidence that they can actually do whatever it is that needs to be done (namely, win games). Looking forward, supporters could say that points are possible against a visiting Dallas side, and maybe even a visiting Sporting Kansas City. But at the end of the day, does the evidence really exist to support such claims?

I have no doubt that the Timbers can score enough goals to win games, but the real question is whether or not they can defend well enough. Portland are currently tied for the second worst Goals Against mark in the West, and tied for third worst league-wide.

Following Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Whitecaps, Caleb Porter was asked about Vancouver's offense. "How about our attack?" Porter quipped. He then pointed out that his side has actually scored more goals than Vancouver so far this season.

Well, that is a true statement.