PORTLAND, Ore. – Until Saturday, the Portland Timbers had suffered a series of disappointing home results.
Before the late-game heroics of Brian Fernandez and Diego Valeri gave them a dramatic 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City, they had gone 1-2 in their last three games at Providence Park, the lone win coming in an ugly 1-0 victory against Real Salt Lake.
In that context, Saturday’s win was huge for the Timbers and their Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs hopes. Walking away with three points instead of one could be the difference between being above or below the playoff line come October.
“I think all around we played against a very good game against a very good team,” Timbers head coach Gio Savarese said. “We performed really well for three points that we needed – crucial points.”
Indeed, the win puts Portland at 13-11-4 on the season, and pushes them into sixth in the West. They’re one of three teams currently tied at 43 points, with FC Dallas in seventh place and Real Salt Lake in fifth, while the LA Galaxy sit just one point back in eighth.
Right now, San Jose hold control of fourth place, the lowest seed that earns the right to host a first-round home playoff game, with 44 points. The Timbers and the Earthquakes will meet in the regular-season finale on Decision Day presented by AT&T (Oct. 6).
“We’re really trying to make the playoffs,” Portland midfielder Eryk Williamson said. “And it’s a massive three points because we’re jumping up now a few places in the table.”
Saturday’s victory also happened despite numerous players unable to play either due to injury or international duty. Nine players were inactive on Saturday, with six injured and three gone for national-team call-ups. Even match hero Fernandez didn’t start, after battling a stomach bug earlier that morning.
“We could have just come and complained about the fact that we had nine players between injuries and international call ups,” Savarese said. “These are the moments that you see the character of a team and you saw it today.”
Despite being shorthanded, everyone was able to step up in a big way, and the bench contributions did not go unnoticed.
“I think it’s really, really good to have guys come off the bench,” Williamson said. “I’ve been in that situation to try and bring that energy, but it felt good as someone on the field tonight that we have subs coming and do that. It felt amazing to get that goal.”
Forward Jeremy Ebobisse, who scored the equalizing goal against Sporting in the 84th minute, noted that they’re not a finished product, with plenty of little things to figure out. But they’re trending upward.
“We’re definitely heading in the right direction,” said Ebobisse. “Today was a big step forward, as complete of a performance as we’ve seen in a while from our team ... The next step is to show that we’re for real and maintaining this level and finding ways to build off of it.
“We need to be able to repeat it the whole month, and then we’ll talk about how far we can go once we make the playoffs.”