Diego Valeri - Portland Timbers - solo close-up
USA Today Sports

Timbers turn attention to home stretch as they gun for West's top seed

SANDY, Utah – He would’ve preferred a different result from Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake, but Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter was pleased with his team’s play in their recently completed three-game road trip.

The Timbers took four points from their stretch of away games, drawing 1-1 at rival Seattle on Aug. 27 and winning 1-0 at NYCFC on Sept. 9 before losing at RSL last Saturday. The run wasn’t groundbreaking, but it did leave the Timbers plenty of reasons for optimism heading into their final four regular season matches.

“We have to keep it in perspective,” Porter said after Saturday’s match. “It has been a good run for us.”

Last weekend’s results left the Timbers in second-place in the Western Conference. They’re tied on points with Seattle and Sporting Kansas City, one back of leaders Vancouver and six ahead of the playoff line. While Portland are in a good spot in the crowded Western Conference table, they have played two more games than Vancouver, SKC, seventh-place Houston and eighth-place Dallas and one more than Seattle and San Jose.

While they have fewer games remaining than all of their rivals but RSL, Portland will play three of their final four contests at home, starting on Sunday against Orlando (8 pm ET; FS1 in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada). They know they need to make hay at Providence Park to have any shot at clinching a top-two seed and avoiding the Knockout Round this postseason.

Having the hottest player in the league in Diego Valeri should help matters. The 31-year-old Argentine has scored in an MLS-record eight straight games and now has 18 goals and nine assists on the season.

“It’s good to play at home the last three or four. Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Valeri said. “As soon as we can get points the better. We know it’s not easy, MLS is hard. We have to get good performances and keep playing like we did in the second half and the last couple games.”

One player who is sure to help the Timbers accomplish their goals is center back Liam Ridgewell. The Englishman returned to the lineup for the first time since Aug. 6 and even that was his only appearance since June 10. He came out in the 75th minute but his presence should provide a boost for a team that has conceded more than 1.5 goals per game. Being back in the group, Ridgewell knows how important this stretch run is for his team.

"It would be nice to have a good finish and being a one or two seed. To win it would be fantastic. The boys have been great, so anything I can do to come into the team and help would be great. I’m feeling good, which is nice for me.”

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