Games Played Becoming Important Stat For Timbers

Portland needs others to lose points to keep pace in hunt for a playoff spot
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, July 18, 2014

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

The July 18 home match with Colorado looked very important a week ago to the Portland Timbers.

The season, and the remaining hope that’s still with their supporters, may now be in the balance. And the number of games remaining is getting smaller, which is a big issue.

Portland’s 2-0 loss in Seattle on Sunday night made the task of making the MLS playoffs that much harder for the Timbers. The loss kept Portland at 21 points for the season, having played 19 matches, and put them securely in 8th place in the Western Conference.

If there was something of a silver lining to the weekend, it was that Vancouver lost at home to Chivas USA. It kept the Whitecaps 4 points up on the Timbers at the time (the gap is now 5 points after the Caps drew in Toronto on Wednesday).

But that Vancouver loss wasn’t really good for the Timbers, either, as the Goats jumped past Portland into 7th place with 23 points, and they have played only 18 matches.

And it’s that number, the number of games played, that has put Portland into this quandary. The only Western Conference team to have played the same number of games as Portland is Dallas. That means 6 of the seven clubs ahead of them have games in hand on Portland, and in one case, it’s a significant number.

Five of the teams ahead of Portland have played 18 matches. That includes Seattle (out of reach in 1st with 38 points), Real Salt Lake (2nd with 28 points), Colorado (4th with 27 points), Vancouver (now 6th with 26 points), Chivas USA (7th with 23 points). That Colorado is on that list is big, because it shows how vital 3 points are to Portland when they play the Rapids on Friday night.

But sitting in 3rd is Los Angeles, and while the Galaxy have 27 points, they have also played only 16 games. That’s 3 matches less than what Portland has played, a huge number when it comes to the playoff run. The own goal that helped give LA a 2-2 home draw with Portland back on July 4 could loom larger as the season goes on, because of the number of games the Galaxy still have to play. That LA added 3 more points on Wednesday with their win over New England makes the gap, now 6 points, seem even wider than it is.

Now in the last playoff spot is FC Dallas, thanks to LA’s win and Vancouver’s draw on Wednesday. They are 5 points up on the Timbers with 26, but have played the same number of matches. This is a major disadvantage for Portland, as they need 2 wins more than FCD in the remaining schedule to pass them. The way 2014 has gone for Portland, that’s easier said than done. But if the Timbers can get within 2 of Dallas, then the last match of the season on October 25 between the two teams in Frisco could be massive.

Also of major concern is the one team behind the Timbers in the standings, San Jose. The Earthquakes have 16 points, placing them in last place in the Western Conference and 5 points behind Portland. But the Quakes have only played 16 matches, 3 fewer than the Timbers. If San Jose gets on a roll and gets wins with their extra games while Portland doesn’t, Portland could easily drop to the conference basement.

That means every match, from now on to the end of the season, is now almost a “must-win” for Portland. As they have played fewer matches than almost everyone ahead of them in the standings, the Timbers need to get 3 points from as many matches as possible and hope at least the 5 teams ahead of them (Colorado, Dallas, Vancouver, Los Angeles & Chivas USA) stumble and allow them to get closer. They also need to win to keep San Jose behind them, and that won’t be an easy task.

Thus, the importance of Friday’s Colorado match. Everyone on the Timbers knows a loss at home to the Rapids could give a major hit to their playoff hopes, from the top on down, and that Seattle must be forgotten.

“(We) have to recover and get back to work and get ready for Colorado,” Coach Caleb Porter told the Portland media on Tuesday. “That game is going to be very critical.”

“We’re not out of the playoffs,” Steve Zakuani said to reporters, also on Tuesday, “but we have with some urgency now, I guess.”

That urgency must be shown on Friday, especially in front of a home crowd that has only seen one league win in Providence Park all season (3-2 over DC United on May 3). Victory over Colorado will cut the Rapids’ gap over the Timbers in half to 3 points. However, a loss puts Colorado 9 points up and, because the Rapids have played one fewer match, almost out of reach of Portland in the playoff race.

With the match being on a Friday night, it also means the Timbers have to watch as the teams around them play during the weekend. What happens in those matches is out of their control, as is their playoff hopes at this time.

But a win over Colorado would make watching a little easier. And, maybe, with help from elsewhere, they can be back in the playoff hunt.

NEXT UP: July 18 – Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids, Providence Park, Portland, Oregon. 11 p.m. EST, NBC Sports Network.

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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