Why This Weekend's Cascadia Match Means So Much More

A win in Seattle would get Portland closer to Vancouver on 2 fronts
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, July 11, 2014

Green Logs - a column on the Portland Timbers & the Portland soccer scene

It is that time again for the Portland Timbers. Cascadia Cup time.

When the Timbers take to the field in Seattle to face the Sounders, in front of the usual full house at CenturyLink Field and a national audience on ESPN2, there will be hope that maybe, in the home of their biggest rivals, the 2014 season just might turn around.

After coming from ahead to draw 2-2 with the Los Angeles Galaxy at the StubHub Center last Friday, the Timbers are now 4 points out of a playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference. They are also 14 points behind the Sounders, who have been in first place for almost the entire season, and are still 7 points up on Real Salt Lake despite not having USMNT stars Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin since mid-May.

But this one is on the road, and despite the draw to the Galaxy, Portland has not lost away from Providence Park since April 19 at Real Salt Lake. They’ve won 3 and tied 2 during that span, including wins at New York and RSL. So, in that sense, maybe there’s a bit of hope going to Seattle.

It was in Seattle where 2 of the defining moments of 2013 took place. It was at the Clink where Rodney Wallace scored in stoppage time to get a 1-1 draw with the Sounders on March 16 and start the Timbers’ 15-match unbeaten run. Then on November 2, in the opening match of the Western Conference semifinal, Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe scored to help Portland get their first MLS win in Seattle 2-1.

That was then. While Sunday’s match will be the second time in 5 days that Portland and Seattle play each other (they also played in the US Open Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila), it means more in the overall scheme of MLS, and of the Cascadia Cup.

Right now, the Vancouver Whitecaps are well on their way to a second straight Cascadia Cup. Their 1-0 win over the Sounders last Saturday in BC Place gave the Whitecaps 7 points in 3 Cup matches, including a draw and win over Seattle in Vancouver and a stunning 4-3 win at Portland on June 1. Seattle has 2 points in 3 games, but have yet to play a home Cup match this season.

Portland has played both of their Cup matches at home so far, and they have both been frustrating for the home team and the Timbers Army. First, there was the wild 4-4 draw with the Sounders on April 5, when Seattle scored twice after the 84th minute to steal a point from the Rose City. The 4-3 loss to the Whitecaps had the Timbers scoring early, then giving up 4 goals in a row, then making a furious comeback to get close, but not close enough. That has Portland already 6 points behind Vancouver in the Cup standings, and the hope of regaining the trophy will fade more if a draw or loss happens on Sunday.

If the Timbers or Sounders have any hope of regaining the Cascadia Cup, they need to win on Sunday. A draw will make it that much more difficult to catch Vancouver in the Cup standings.

Of course, a win is also vital in the MLS standings, and it’s Vancouver again that Portland is trying to catch. That’s because the Whitecaps are in 5th place in the Western Conference, and thus are in the last playoff spot. They are 4 points up on Portland with 2 matches in hand, putting them in a good position as the second half of the season begins. A win for the Whitecaps over Chivas USA on Saturday night in BC Place would put even more pressure on the Timbers to win.

Maybe the more realistic team Portland has to catch in the MLS standings in FC Dallas. They are 5 points up on the Timbers in 4th, but are also the only club to have played more matches than Portland with 19 (the Timbers have played 18). Vancouver also has 3 games in hand on Dallas, but trail by just a point (FCD has 26, VAN has 25), so the Whitecaps could easily pass them in the standings this weekend, especially since FCD doesn’t play this weekend. While Vancouver could move into 3rd if Colorado loses to Philadelphia, the Rapids have played 1 less match than Portland. However, Colorado plays at Portland on July 18, so it will be a major opportunity for the Timbers to gain ground on the Rapids.

This is the situation Portland has put themselves into. They are 4 points out of an MLS playoff spot, 6 out of the Cascadia Cup lead. While it’s almost crazy to think of Sunday in Seattle as a must-win match, it just might be. A win puts them allows the Timbers to keep pace with Vancouver, Dallas and Colorado in the West, while getting within 3 points of the Whitecaps in the Cascadia standings. A draw or a loss makes both the Cup and an MLS playoff spot harder to get.

But a win, especially a win in Seattle, after all that’s happened this season, could be the turning point so badly needed by Portland. It also might be the hardest one to get.

NEXT UP: July 13 – Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash. 10:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2.

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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