The Portland Timbers have fallen below the red line once again after the Vancouver Whitecap's midweek 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, the same team that the Timbers shipped three goals to over the weekend in a frustrating tie. Now, with seven games to go, every point is vital for the Timbers as they try to claw their way back up above the Whitecaps, while holding off a potential challenge from the still free-falling Colorado Rapids.
Timbers' Remaining Schedule: @ Colorado Rapids, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, @ Toronto FC, @ San Jose Earthquakes, vs. San Jose Earthquakes, vs. Real Salt Lake, @ FC Dallas.
As fate would have it, the Timbers' next two matches come against those two opponents, giving the team two key six-point matches in the next two weeks. The playoffs will not be clinched with a pair of wins and the season will not be over with a pair of losses, but either will go a long way toward determining the Timbers' final position on the table this season.
The circumstances of the two matches are very different.
Against the Rapids, coming up this Saturday, the Timbers will be facing off against a team that have lost their last five games in a row by a total score of 15-4, including last Friday's 6-0 implosion against the LA Galaxy that saw their keeper, Joe Nasco, sent off.
Still, the Timbers will be going to Colorado for the match, a place where they have struggled since their first match in the MLS era, a one-sided 3-1 loss. Since then the Timbers have gone 0-3-1 in Colorado. In their first visit to Colorado earlier this year, the Timbers could only manage a 2-0 defeat.
Even given the recent horrors of this season, the Rapids have remained strong at home, going 6-4-3 and maintaining a +9 goal differential at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in 2014.
The match against the Whitecaps the following week, looks very different. This year the Whitecaps have struggled on the road, going 2-3-8 so far. One of the two wins was the Whitecaps' memorable 4-3 win over the Timbers at the start of the season.
The wrinkle in this match is more on the Timbers' side of things, a team that has been generally unable to take three points at home this year, only doing so successfully three times. The Whitecaps may have been less than dangerous on the road so far this season, but between their record on the road and the Timbers' at home, the two teams have combined for ties in 16 of 28 games.
The Timbers will have two big chances to show that they can rise to the occasion, something that they have chronically failed to do this season.