The Portland Timbers needed a win at home against the Colorado Rapids, the best team in MLS coming in, and, on an ugly, rainy afternoon at Providence Park, they got what they needed. As a result, the Portland Timbers’ playoff hopes are still alive.
Portland Timbers’ Playoff Hopes Still Alive
The Timbers controlled a great deal of possession in the first half while outshooting the Rapids 13-3. They were forcing mistakes out of the Rapids defense in the form of yellow cards and two penalties, but they only had one goal to show for their efforts. Fanendo Adi buried a 35th minute penalty and then had one saved less than five minutes later. His follow up effort on that second PK resulted in a miss at a wide open goal. That lack of a second goal would almost cost the Timbers the game in the second half.
Possession was good, but chances were sparse
The Timbers did well to keep on the ball for much of the first half. However, of their 13 shots in the opening 45 minutes, only the two penalties were on target. They struggled to deal with the Rapids clogging of the penalty area. Adi wasn’t allowed any space to work and the extra numbers presented by Diego Chara and the occasional Jack Jewsbury run had zero effect.
Late conservative play almost cost them
The dominating possession went away in the second half as the Timbers, and the Rapids too, started to play quite conservatively. The extreme reliance on the back four almost cost the Timbers dearly. Steven Taylor began looking quite sloppy as Colorado began to press forward with more vigor. Dominique Badji’s introduction to the match only compounded this effect.
Colorado’s chances were piling up late in the match. Kevin Doyle hit a pair of posts. Skelshan Gashi looped a free kick that resulted in a screamer across the goal that Liam Ridgewell barely managed to get a touch to clear.
The other negative side effect of the lack of forward play was no push for a second goal. With Colorado knocking on the door regularly, a second goal would have put the three points in Portland’s pocket at a key time. A stronger push for another goal would have been fantastic, but, it wasn’t to be.
Not to mention that extra goal would have lofted the Timbers ahead of Sporting Kansas City on the goals for tiebreaker.
Next week in Vancouver will be tough
The Timbers now need to do something they haven’t done all year, win on the road. Not only will they need to find three points away from Providence Park, they will have to do so without the services of Liam Ridgewell and Diego Chara after both picked up yellow card suspensions. These two critical defensive pieces will be sorely missed. Ridgewell’s absence earlier in the season is part of why Portland is in this mess to qualify for the playoffs to begin with. Chara, despite his persistent fouling, serves as both a strong shield for the back line and an occasional force going forward. Without these two key cogs, the defense needs to work harder and the attack will be missing a big breakout threat.
The CONCACAF Champions League match in midweek cannot be ignored as well. Chara and Ridgewell are likely to play thanks to their suspension for Sunday. That will help Portland’s chances there, but what does that mean for Decision Day? Do the Timbers play their other stars for a chance at CCL play in the spring while compromising their MLS Playoff chances? It’s a tough question for Caleb Porter to answer.
In the end, the Timbers got themselves an ugly win to help their playoff chances. They are level on points and wins with Sporting Kansas City, who played to a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake. They are also only two back of RSL for fourth place. So, if, on the odd chance that results break just right next Sunday, the Timbers could not only make the playoffs, but end up hosting a knockout round game by vaulting up for fourth.