[MLS: Playoff Push] After taking off last weekend, Portland play FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake at home and then head to Seattle for its third game in nine days. Wins instead of ties will go a long way toward clinching the Timbers' first playoff berth in three seasons in MLS.
THE STORY SO FAR.Caleb Porter is a serious candidate, if not the top candidate, for Coach of the Year for transforming last year’s 8-16-10 disaster into a legitimate competitor. The always raucous crowds at JELD-WEN Field are louder than ever when Timber Joey saws off a slab and holds it up in triumph.
RECENT MOVES.Portland sat out the summer transfer window, but defined its future by converting Diego Valeri’s loan into a transfer. The Argentine playmaker quickly convinced his teammates and fans of his quality and commitment, and he’s given the Timbers a lot more than his team-high eight assists.
STYLE POINTS. Possession and technique are staples of Portland’s attack, and there’s also speed up top in Darlington Nagbe and power in Ryan Johnson. They have combined for 13 goals. The tough, tidy midfield work of Will Johnson and Diego Chara can move the ball around or unleashRodney Wallace (five goals). Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts has shook off his troubles with the Galaxy and Montreal to regain his mojo.
NEEDS WORK.At times, the Timbers fall into the trap of playing the opponent’s game, particularly if the opponent tries to bypass midfield by playing long ball. Miscommunication in the back line has cost the team a few goals, as shown by that ungodly number of ties that includes deadlocks in all three of its Cascadia Cup matches this season. Too many goals have been conceded on set plays.
FINAL ANSWER.Seven of the team’s final 12 games are at home, and two of the five roadies are at Chivas USA, so punching out a few wins instead more ties is very doable. After taking off last weekend, the Timbers play FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake at home and then head to Seattle for its third game in nine days.
August 17: FC Dallas
August 21: Real Salt Lake
August 25: @Seattle
August 30: @Real Salt Lake
September 7: Toronto FC
September 14: @Chivas USA
September 20: Colorado
September 29: LA Galaxy
October 6: @Vancouver
October 13: Seattle
October 19: Real Salt Lake
October 26: @Chivas USA