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Path to the Playoffs: Eight Games to Go, Saturday Edition

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Today features some Eastern Conference matches and two late games with big implications for the Timbers.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With only eight games to go in the season for the Portland Timbers, every match around the league has some bearing on the final standings. Let's look forward to today's matches and how they will affect the Timbers' run in to the playoffs.

The Table

Eastern Conference
  1. D.C. United, 46 points, 26 games played
  2. Sporting Kansas City, 42 points, 27 games played
  3. New England Revolution, 36 points, 26 games played
  4. Toronto FC, 33 points, 25 games played
  5. Columbus Crew, 33 points, 26 games played
  6. Philadelphia Union, 33 points, 26 games played
  7. New York Red Bulls, 31 points, 25 games played
  8. Chicago Fire, 29 points, 25 games played
  9. Houston Dynamo, 28 points, 25 games played
  10. Montreal Impact, 20 points, 25 games played
Western Conference
  1. Seattle Sounders, 51 points, 26 games played
  2. LA Galaxy, 49 points, 26 games played
  3. Real Salt Lake, 43 points, 26 games played
  4. FC Dallas, 42 points, 26 games played
  5. Portland Timbers, 34 points, 26 games played
  6. Vancouver Whitecaps, 33 points, 25 games played
  7. Colorado Rapids, 30 points, 27 games played
  8. San Jose Earthquakes, 26 points, 24 games played
  9. Chivas USA, 24 points, 26 games played

Today's Matches

Philadelphia Union at Toronto FC

Saturday 9/6, 11:00 AM PT on Univision Deportes

Root for: Tie

Why? These Eastern Conference matches are always difficult to call and with both teams tied on points, a tie is the best bet for keeping hosting rights for the MLS Cup Final a remote possibility. The Timbers may still have a match to go against Toronto, but with three games to play before that a home tie does not seem likely to set TFC rocketing up the standings before their match against the Timbers.

Sporting Kansas City at New York Red Bulls

Saturday 9/6, 4:30 PM PT on NBCSN

Root for: Sporting Kansas City

Why? A win for the Wiz accomplishes two things for the Timbers: keeping New York's point total behind the Timbers for an unlikely MLS Cup Final matchup and putting SKC at least within shouting distance of the Sounders' Supporters' Shield run.

Montreal Impact at Houston Dynamo

Saturday 9/6, 5:30 PM PT on MLS Live

Root for: Who cares?

Why? These are the two worst teams in the league. Despite Chivas's abysmal year in the basement of the West, at least they have taken points off teams in the Western Conference. Houston may have more points than Chivas or San Jose, but earlier this year they lost to Montreal 3-0. Houston has given up three or more goals eight times this year. Of course, Houston does have five shutouts on the year, two more than the Timbers have managed.

The less said about the year that Montreal are having the better. They could still influence the playoff race in the West when they play the Galaxy later this month, but their mounting more than a token resistance to a team that have won their last four games with a combined scoreline of 15-1 does not seem particularly likely.

FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake

Saturday 9/6, 7:00 PM PT on MLS Live

Root for: FC Dallas

Why? When the two teams that the Timbers are slated to face in the final two weeks of the season face off, who do we want to stumble? The team with fewer points, right?

Incorrect.

The Timbers are still a long ways from safe in their 5th place spot and with Dallas set to play the Whitecaps twice and the Rapids once in the closing weeks of the season, their return to form is much more useful to the Timbers than the single point difference between them and Real Salt Lake. Meanwhile, a run of bad form for Salt Lake could put them in a vulnerable position come 10/17 when they face the Timbers for the final time during the regular season.

Given that the Timbers have not yet lost to RSL this year, taking four points off them in two games, they are a much more attractive opponent to attempt to overtake at home, rather than the FCD side that the Timbers have taken one point from in two matches this year and will be facing on the road.

D.C. United at Vancouver Whitecaps

Saturday 9/6, 7:00 PM PT on MLS Live

Root for: D.C. United.

Why? This is a no-brainer. Vancouver are the Timbers' rivals in Cascadia and their rivals for the final playoff berth in the West. D.C. is the feel good team of scrappy castoffs who stand the best chance of beating the Sounders to the Supporters' Shield.

I mean, come on.

Disagree with the prognosis? Let us know in the comments. Plus, if you are going to be watching the game, feel free to discuss them here.