MatchDay Preview: Portland travel to D.C. United looking to pick up important result
For D.C. United and the Portland Timbers, the mathematics are simple for Wednesday’s night game at RFK Stadium, rescheduled from Aug. 28 because of Hurricane Irene. After their stunning defeat Saturday, United must win their final two games of the year – any dropped points and they will be eliminated from playoff contention. The Timbers have more wiggle room and can lose on Wednesday and remain alive, but will still need help from Philadelphia on Thursday night.
The Portland Timbers went down to a difficult defeat, a 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo on Friday evening at JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers have 40 points from 32 games, in sixth place in the Western Conference.
- The Dynamo took the lead in the 36th minute. Winning a free kick outside the left corner of the penalty area, Brad Davis swung in his service toward the near post and defender Andre Hainault met it with a glancing header, nodding it past Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
- Houston doubled their lead in the 59th minute in spectacular fashion when Danny Cruz drove a left-footed blast from 30 yards out into the top corner of the goal.
- Timbers coach John Spencer made two changes to the team that took a 1-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. Jack Jewsbury came into the midfield for James Marcelin, and Kalif Alhassan came into the side in place of Jorge Perlaza.
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-4-2): Troy Perkins - Lovel Palmer, Mamadou Danso, Eric Brunner, Mike Chabala (David Horst 66) - Sal Zizzo (Jorge Perlaza 46), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan - Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 74), Darlington Nagbe.
A loss will not eliminate the Timbers from MLS Cup Playoffs contention, unless the New York Red Bulls win on Thursday night at home vs. Philadelphia. Even two wins will not secure a postseason berth – if New York and Portland finish level with 46 points, the Red Bulls will advance as a result of their head-to-head matchups.
“I'm still telling them, we're going to try to get maximum points in the next two games whether we're 20 points out of the playoff race or not,” said Timbers head coach John Spencer. “We'll not be changing our philosophy. For us, we're going to try and look to get as many points this year as possible.”
If the Timbers take four points from their final two games, they must have the Red Bulls lose if they are going to reach the postseason.
“I think for the last month people have been telling us every game we've been playing is a must-win. When those have come up, we've done well,” said midfielder Jack Jewsbury. “I thought the effort was there, but for whatever reason we didn't play our best soccer. Sometimes we're going to do that and in the beginning of the year we still got the result and that's not what happened (against Houston).”
The Timbers are looking to become the fourth expansion team (created from an expansion draft) to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs, joining the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion in 1998, and Seattle Sounders FC in 2009.
“How many games have we said that was a must-win? You guys have been saying a 'must-win' since August,” said defender Mike Chabala. “It's just the way it is. Every game we want to win. Every game, I think, this city and the organization and the players want to win. Some days you're going to play your best, some days you're not, and I think, collectively, we can all raise our hands and say this wasn't our best game.”
The loss snapped a six-game home unbeaten streak for the Timbers, who were 4-0-2 at JELD-WEN Field since the All-Star break.
“I think we never came out and started with the zest and the enthusiasm and the mobility that I expected us to, which was a little bit disappointing,” said Spencer. “… I still don't think we're playing to the best of our ability.”
Midfielder Sal Zizzo was forced off at halftime after suffering an injury to his left knee, and Spencer said he is not expected to be available for the two games this week.