How Portland Can Keep the Cascadia Cup

Sunday’s match at Vancouver comes in midst of playoff push for Portland
by Ray Marcham   |   Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Green Logs – column on Portland Timbers (PTFC) & the Portland, Oregon area soccer scene.

This year, the October trip to Vancouver has much more at stake for the Portland Timbers.

After a dramatic 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday afternoon, the Timbers now face their final Cascadia Cup matches of the season. This time, it’s not just the Cup on the line.

It was last October when Portland, long out of the playoff race, went to BC Place and upset the playoff-bound Whitecaps and claimed the Cascadia Cup for the 1st time as an MLS club and for the 1st time when all 3 Northwest clubs were taking part (the Timbers won the Cup in 2009 and 2010, when they only played Vancouver in the 2nd Division as Seattle was in MLS). It was the highlight of an otherwise dreary season.

This time, the tables are turned a bit. It’s the Timbers who are in the middle of a playoff push, while the Whitecaps are the club on the outside looking in.

But the Timbers also need a win to have any hope to retain the Cascadia Cup. They currently sit in 3rd place with 3 points (0-1-3, Goal Difference -1) in their 4 matches. They sit 4 points behind Seattle (2-1-1, 7 pts., GD 0) and 2 behind Vancouver (1-1-2, 5 pts., GD 1) in the Cup standings. Anything other than a win means the Cup heads back north, with no chance of a repeat.

If Portland beats Vancouver on Sunday, and if the Whitecaps knock off the Sounders next Wednesday in Seattle, then Portland-Seattle on October 13 at JELD-WEN Field (on ESPN) is for the Cup. But a Whitecaps win puts them in the Cascadia driver’s seat, needing only a draw in Seattle to clinch the Cup. A draw with Portland means Vancouver would need to beat the Sounders to claim the Cup, or Seattle would get the Cup back after a 1-year absence.

The fun this year is that the last Cup matches come as the Timbers continue their playoff drive. After Sunday’s win over the Galaxy, Portland sits in 3rd place in the MLS Western Conference with 49 points, 2 points behind Real Salt Lake and Seattle.

The Timbers are also 4 points ahead of 4th-place LA and 5th-place Colorado (45 points), the clubs in the last 2 playoff spots. Portland is also 5 points up on San Jose (44 points), who sit in 6th and are trying to push into a playoff spot (but who also have the weekend off). Vancouver is in 7th with 41 points, 8 behind the Timbers but also 4 points out of a playoff spot.

This makes Sunday’s match as crucial for the Whitecaps as for the Timbers, maybe more so, as Vancouver tries to keep those playoff hopes alive.

But what Whitecaps side will the Timbers see? Will it be the side that went to Montreal and dominated the Impact on September 21? Or will it be the side that was so dreary at home on September 28, beaten by a Real Salt Lake team resting many of its regulars as they got ready for the US Open Cup Final? Vancouver has won just once in their last 7 matches, and they know another loss puts them that much closer to missing the playoffs.

One thing that both sides will be glad for is that national team call-ups won’t affect them until after the match. Players won’t be leaving until then, ensuring that both sides will be near full-strength for Sunday’s match.

As for the Timbers, they will know where they stand, and what they need to do, by match time. With RSL hosting FC Dallas and Seattle playing at Colorado on Saturday, and Los Angeles playing Chivas USA on Sunday afternoon, Portland will know exactly what they have to do to keep up with RSL/Seattle and to stay well ahead of LA/Colorado. The Vancouver match is the last of the weekend in MLS.

They also know where they stand when it comes to the Cascadia Cup. Nothing less than a win is needed to keep up hopes of the Cup staying in the Rose City. A draw or a loss, and the Cup will be heading back north.

That’s something no Timbers fan wants to think about right now. Even as a playoff spot gets closer.

NEXT UP: October 6 – Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, BC Place, Vancouver, BC. 8 PM EST, ROOT Sports (NW).

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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