Darren Mattocks proving worth to Portland Timbers during Adi's absence

Darren Mattocks vs. Orlando City SC, September 24, 2017

PORTLAND – The day after the Portland Thorns won the NWSL Championship, the Portland Timbers punched their ticket to the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs with a 4-0 win over D.C. United.

Now, with a home victory over rival Vancouver on Sunday (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE in the US, TSN1 in Canada), Portland cannot only bring the club its first Cascadia Cup since 2012, but take the top-seed in the Western Conference. It’s a refreshing opportunity for a team that followed up their 2015 MLS Cup title by missing the playoffs last year.

“It’s obviously been a long couple of years since we won the championship,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. “I’m really pleased that the guys this year dug deep through a lot and are now able to be in the playoffs again. That’s the first goal, but that’s not the only goal. Our goal is to win the West. When we’re in [the playoffs] with a high seed, we want to win it all.”

They’ve gotten this far largely without striker Fanendo Adi, who has been out since Aug. 6 due to a hamstring injury. The Timbers leading scorer in 2015, 2016 and midway through this year, Adi went through warmups on Sunday, but failed to make Porter’s 18-man gameday roster.

Despite Adi’s extended absence, Portland have now scored in 20 consecutive games, the longest active streak in Major League Soccer. While Diego Valeri’s exploits have placed him on the shortlist for MVP, Darren Mattocks, the man filling in for Adi up top, has also contributed mightily to Portland’s success.

Though he only has two goals and two assists in nine games since Adi went out, the speedy Mattocks has kept opposing defenses on the back foot with his dangerous, persistent runs. His penchant for drawing penalties has proven crucial, too, with the Jamaican international earning a spot kick for the fourth time this season late in the first half of Sunday’s win against D.C. He’s one of only two players in MLS to have drawn two or more penalty kicks in 2017.

“I think he’s still getting back in the swing of things,” Porter said of Mattocks. “I know it’s crazy to say because he’s played a lot of games in a row, but he hasn’t played a lot of games in the last several years, so there’s still a lot of work for him to do with his timing, movement and finishing. I think that’s four penalty kicks that he’s created. They weren’t little PKs, they were big PKs that unlocked the first goal. That’s what he brings.”