PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s been a long three week since the Portland Timbers played in front of their raucous home crowd, but their parade toward the playoffs finally returns to JELD-WEN Field for a nationally televised Friday night game against the New England Revolution. (11 pm ET, FOX Soccer)
The Timbers, who haven’t played at home since a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on Aug. 24, are riding a three-game unbeaten streak, which they hope to extend by getting a win on home soil.
“When you have 18,000 to 20,000 people coming in the gates expecting to see their team win, they’re all big games,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said. “Any club that has the following that we have – I mean, we’re expected to win exhibition games against Independiente. ... They’re all big games for us.”
Likewise, Portland will be happy to see their home field, where they are 8-4-2.
Portland’s scoreless tie on Saturday at Philadelphia kept them nipping at the heels of D.C. United for the final wild card playoff spot. They are tied with the New York Red Bulls with 33 points from 27 games, one point behind United.
Counting the match against New England – who are six points behind Portland – five of the Timbers remaining seven matches are against teams in the playoff race.
“Right now we don’t want to look too far beyond the game at hand,” midfielder and captain Jack Jewsbury said. “And this one Friday is a huge one, as they’re all going to be at this point. Nothing is going to change. There aren’t going to be any more games that don’t mean anything because three points are critical for us to move up the standings.”
The Revolution team that the Timbers welcome to town on Friday will be far different than the one they played to a 1-1 draw on April 2 at Gillette Stadium. Most notably, New England added US national team midfielder Benny Feilhaber on April 19 through the MLS Allocation Process.
In 17 games since then, Feilhaber has scored three goals and notched four assists.
“[Feilhaber is] a really, really good player,” said Spencer, who recommended that his brother in law, Billy Davies, the head coach of Derby County, sign Feilhaber in 2007. “He’s a quality individual and we’ll have to be very, very, very wary of him when he comes to town. He can win the game on his own. He gives [New England] that player from that attacking midfield role, whether they play in a three-man central midfield or they play in a 4-4-2. He has the ability – as we saw against Philadelphia last week – to score from distance, so we have to be careful.”
Feilhaber only played one year with Derby County before signing with AGS Aarhus and spending three seasons there. The 26-year-old scored last in New England’s 4-4 tie on Sept. 7 against Philadelphia. The Revolution have scored eight goals in their last three games and broke a seven-game winless streak on Saturday in a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas.
“We have to play this game Friday as if it were the playoff finals,” defender Lovel Palmer said. “The only game we’re thinking about now is come Friday at home against New England. As I said, that’s the final game of the season for us, that’s how we’re taking every game. We have to win this game to make the playoffs. And then we’ll take it from there come Wednesday when we play San Jose.”