After experiencing the spectrum of emotions over the weekend, the Portland Timbers are more than grateful for another in a long line of must-win games when they take on D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Wednesday evening (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Portland went from devastation Friday night after losing 2-0 in their home finale against the Houston Dynamo, to relief when they watched from their couches as both New York and D.C. lost in their Saturday games.
That gave the Timbers new life in the race to capture the 10th and final MLS playoff spot.
"Everybody was pretty devastated in the locker room," midfielder and team captain Jack Jewsbury said of the team's mood after the Houston game. "We didn't know what our chances were going to be. It was tough at that point. [Saturday's results] gives you that hope that we can still do this, and we need to make sure everyone in the locker room knows that there's a chance. This D.C. game, it's all or nothing."
Portland remain three points behind New York with two games in hand, and are currently tied with Chicago on 40 points with a game in hand. The best chance of advancing is if they get two wins and a New York loss in their final game, but if all three teams – Portland, New York, Chicago – finish on 43 points, then Portland will advance via the head-to-head tiebreaker.
That, of course, assuming D.C. don’t win out and finish on 44 points.
After the D.C. game Wednesday, Portland complete their season Saturday at Real Salt Lake. United, meanwhile, host Sporting KC on Saturday.
"You don't like to have to look at those things, but at the end of the day, [Saturday] was a pretty good day for us in terms of that," Jewsbury said. "And we have two games left to make the playoffs. We all know what we have to do: Go to D.C., have a good performance, better than the one we had in the last game, knowing that our season is on the line."
To do it, the Timbers will have to find success on the road. Portland's 1-0 win on Oct. 2 at Vancouver was just their second road win of the season.
"I truly believe in this group, that we're truly good enough to go and get three points in each place," Timbers head coach John Spencer said.
For the Timbers to come out victorious, they’ll have to bottle up D.C. attacker Dwayne De Rosario, who has become a Portland nemesis. The MLS veteran, who jointly holds the league goal scoring lead with 15 tallies, scored the game-tying goal in the final seconds of a 3-3 decision vs. New York on June 19 at JELD-WEN Field before being traded from the Red Bulls. And before he was traded to New York, De Rosario assisted on a goal in Portland's 2-0 loss to Toronto FC on March 26.
"Ever since he's been in D.C., he's been on a great run of form," Jewsbury said. "Even before that, no matter when you're playing him, you had to be aware of him, especially in big games because, as you've seen over his career, when the big games come up, he's ready to play."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.