PORTLAND, Ore. – Call it the calm before the storm.
The Portland Timbers head into their off weekend knowing that when they return to the training field Monday, things will start to happen and happen fast.
Beginning with an Oct. 14 home game against the Houston Dynamo, the Timbers will play three matches in eight days – all of which are awash in playoff implications.
“The reality of it is we have three games in eight days that are kind of going to define this whole season,” said midfielder and team captain Jack Jewsbury, who will return to the starting lineup against Houston after serving a suspension in the Timbers’ 1-0 win Sunday against Vancouver. “And I think guys realize the importance of it, whether they’ve been around nine, 10 years or whether this is their first year in the league.
"It’s kind of been a theme of ours this past month, be as good as you can be in every aspect of what you do. I think that’s the main focus right now.”
And despite a week of training with no game on the immediate horizon, Jewsbury said that hasn’t lessened the team’s focus. New York’s 2-0 over the LA Galaxy on Tuesdat, which propelled the Red Bulls into a tie for the ninth playoff spot with Houston at 43 points, probably helped intensify things for the Timbers. Portland, with 40 points, currently sit outside of the playoff picture with a game in hand over both New York and Houston.
“We realize we’ve got to get some results no matter what happens,” Jewsbury said. “Obviously you watch around the league what’s going on and keep an eye on that stuff, but at the end of the day our focus has to be about how we come back. Obviously we’ve got a weekend here to rest and get ourselves ready for the final stretch, which is going to be crucial.”
After the Houston match, the Timbers play at D.C. United, which are two points behind Portland, on Oct. 19 and at Real Salt Lake, who have already clinched a playoff spot.
“I think there’s going to be pressure on this week leading up the Houston game no matter what,” Jewsbury said. “We feel like we definitely have to take care of our home game here and get three points and then go on the road against two tough teams in two tough places to play in DC and Salt Lake and get results there to really put pressure on other teams going into the final games.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.