Portland Timbers pleased to control postseason destiny with two "massive" games looming

BEAVERTON, Ore. – In the Portland Timbers’ up-and-down season, it would be easy to consider the last couple of days quite the valley.

First, Portland’s defense conceded three goals in regrettable fashion Sunday against the San Jose Earthquakes, a performance that cost the Timbers two points after a 3-3 draw. That result also cost Portland their hold on the fifth and final postseason spot after the Vancouver Whitecaps beat the Quakes on Wednesday to leapfrog over the Timbers and into postseason position.

Despite all that, head coach Caleb Porter made clear that neither he nor his team are panicking. That’s because next up for the Timbers are two games – starting with Saturday’s away match with the Colorado Rapids (9 pm ET; MLS Live) and the following weekend against the Vancouver Whitecaps – are against their closest postseason competitors.

“These two are massive games,” Porter said Friday at the team facility. “… How we do in those games will determine where we’re at at the end of the year. There’s no bigger game than Colorado on the road.”

The race to be the last team in from the Western Conference increasingly appears to be down to the Timbers, Rapids and Whitecaps.

The Rapids, despite having lost a franchise-worse seven straight games, are in seventh place but still within shouting distance, five points behind the Timbers and seven behind Vancouver. There’s no doubt a win by Portland this weekend would be a major blow to the Colorado’s chances.

“The [Whitecaps] victory has raised even more awareness of the importance of the game come Saturday,” Timbers striker Fanendo Adi told the media on Thursday. “But even before the game last night, we were talking about how important the [Colorado] game was going to be.”

Another reason for Portland’s optimism, despite another defensive setback in a season of challenges in that department, is their offense. Including a 3-0 victory Aug. 30 over Vancouver and a 4-2 loss to Seattle on Aug. 24, the Timbers have scored eight goals in their last three games, and 12 in their last four counting a CONCACAF Champions League victory over Alpha United.  The three-game stretch is Portland’s most potent since an eight-goal outburst in their first three games of June.

“The nice thing is we’re playing well, especially in the attack,” Porter said. “The last two games were two of our best attacking performances of the year. Obviously, you saw the stats. And stats don’t always tell the story, but looking back on the [San Jose] game that was an extremely dominant game, especially from the attacking end.”

Portland are also getting a Rapids team in the midst of an epic slump coming off a humiliating 6-0 loss last Friday against the LA Galaxy. Porter expects Colorado to be fighting for their lives.

“The past doesn’t play into anything, for me,” Porter said. “ … It’s an important game for them. We’ll get a good performance out of them. And to win the game we’re going to need a good performance.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. 

Stay connected: The official MLS app keeps you connected with the latest news, highlights, scores, standings, and analysis all for FREE. Download for iOS (Apple) or Download for Android