BEAVERTON, Ore. – Sunday’s 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy provided a number of positive story lines for the Portland Timbers.
It was their second victory of the season over the two-time defending MLS Cup champions, reestablishing a belief in the Timbers that they have the capability of beating all comers. It was also Portland’s second straight 1-0 win, another reassurance that they have left behind their struggles during the second half of the season.
But, more importantly, the six points they’ve snatched from their last two games has put Portland in prime position to secure the organization's first MLS playoff berth.
With four games remaining, all against Western Conference opponents starting Sunday at Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps (5 pm PT; ROOT SPORTS, 750 The Game / La Pantera 940), the Timbers sit in third place with 49 points from 30 games.
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“We got the three points, which we were looking for, and now we put ourselves on the front foot going into the game against Vancouver,” Timbers defender Pa Modou Kah said. “We have no time to waste because we still have 12 points to play for and this team is behind us. So we have no time to relax, everybody is focused, everybody is ready to face Vancouver.”
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Another three points over Vancouver, who will be desperate for a win to keep their slim playoff hopes on life support, would virtually assure the Timbers' first spot in the postseason. Portland could even lock up a playoff berth depending on other results.
But head coach Caleb Porter said he doesn’t just want to make the playoffs. He wants momentum, he wants one of the top-three spots to avoid the one-game Knockout Round match and he even feels the Supporters’ Shield is still within reach.
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“We have so much to play for right now,” Porter said. “With a result here we can really put ourselves in a position where it will be hard not to make the playoffs.”
Portland trail conference leaders Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders by just two points. Seattle has a game in hand on Portland, while the Timbers have a game in hand on RSL.
And before it is all said and done, Portland will face both teams.
“It’s very important for us, it’s very important for the fans, very important for the city of Portland,” Kah said of the playoffs. “And our main goal is to make it, and we’ll do everything in our power to do that. But even though we’re in position, doesn’t mean we’re there yet.”
There is certainly a business-like feel to the group, exemplified in their last two victories that were anything but pretty. But even though the product might not be the beautiful, possession attack that Portland became known for earlier this season, Porter has maintained that when the calendar flips to October it’s all about earning results.
“We know we haven’t done anything yet,” Kah said. “We’re still in the race, so everybody has to keep that sharpness, that focus and that humbleness and that drive, which we have to make the playoffs for the first time in Portland Timbers franchise history. And the job is not done yet.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.