PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Audi 2018 MLS Cup playoffs may be weeks away, but Saturday's contest between the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas had the distinct feel of a playoff game as they played to a scoreless draw at Providence Park.
"It was a pretty even game," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said in his postgame remarks. "I thought they had their good moments; I thought we had our good moments, especially in the second half. I thought we created some good opportunities but it was difficult. Dallas is a good team. We knew it was going to be complicated."
While both teams earned a point, there was a feeling on both sides of a lost opportunity. For Oscar Pareja and Dallas, there is solace that their road draw allowed them to become the first Western Conference club to clinch a postseason berth, rebounding from their surprise failure to qualify last year.
“It’s great news," said Pareja. "I want to congratulate the players on a terrific job so far. It’s not easy to qualify this early in this league, it is very competitive and differences are really tight. Well-deserved for the club that we are back into the playoffs after a very tough year. We are very happy for this achievement.”
"It was intense playing in Providence Park with the fans, who I admire a lot," he continued. "It’s difficult, so walking out with a point is not an easy task to accomplish. We’re proud with the point, even though we had chances to score, but we will take the point with pride.”
Dallas (15-6-9, 54 points) now stand three points ahead of Sporting Kansas City, but a win on Sunday over Real Salt Lake would put Sporting above Dallas atop the West. Portland (13-9-9, 48 points) meanwhile stay ahead of Seattle and RSL, but each club has a game in hand.
In the Portland locker room, an immediate concern will be key players' availability for the squad's final three matches. Central defender Liam Ridgewell was ejected in second-half stoppage time, a foul Savarese said he had yet to review.
Perhaps more concerning are injuries sustained during the match to Alvas Powell and Jeff Attinella. Attinella, returning from a thigh injury that had kept him out for several matches, dislocated his shoulder during the match. Timbers trainers were able to pop it into place, but ultimately Steve Clark entered the game late to maintain the clean sheet.
The Timbers still control their destiny for the playoffs, but the margins have been cut with the draw and results elsewhere.
"We take the point," Savarese said. "It's better than anything else but we tried everything we could to get the three points today."
"At the end of the day, we battled," added Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse. "We didn’t give them an inch. I know we didn’t create as many clear-cut chances as we would have liked. We have to take the point and the positives out of this, push onto [Real Salt Lake], and finish strong. It’s all about momentum and I think we’re in a good position to finish high.”