20211020 yimmi chara

BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Portland Timbers have played 15 games this season on short rest — fewer than the five or six days a team would get if Major League Soccer games were only on weekends. In this year’s Wednesday and Thursday games, the Timbers are 5-6-4 (W-L-D), part of the reason the team currently sits fourth in league’s Western Conference.

When a team loses their long rest periods, the biggest impact is on practice. Players have to be given time to physically recover no matter what, so the time that gets sacrificed during small windows are the big practice days – the mid-week sessions where bodies get tested and built. Instead of recovering, activating, and building toward those sessions, training staff build toward midweek games, with Portland’s next one coming tonight at Providence Park against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“At this point of the season, every game becomes a little bit different …,” Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri said on Tuesday, in his team’s prematch press conference. “Everybody is looking to make the playoffs.”

Portland’s playoff path is much smoother than it was two months ago. Though the team lost on Saturday at the LA Galaxy, the Timbers had been unbeaten in eight games before that match. As a result, the Timbers have a small gap between them and the West’s fifth-place teams, as well as a small gap between themselves and the third-place Colorado Rapids, who they will face this weekend.

2021 MLS Western Conference Standings
Rank
Team
GP
Points
1
Seattle
29
57
2
Kansas City
29
52
3
Colorado
29
51
4
Portland
29
46
5
Salt Lake
29
42
6
LA Galaxy
29
42
7
Minnesota
29
41
8
Vancouver
29
40
9
LAFC
29
37
10
San Jose
29
33
11
Houston
30
30
12
Dallas
29
28
13
Austin
29
25

Vancouver is in a more precarious position, though they are trending in the right direction. After last weekend’s victory at home over second-place Sporting Kansas City, the Whitecaps are on the brink of the West’s playoff posts, sitting in eighth place after 29 games, one point out of the conference’s seventh and last playoff position. Though the team still has work to go, their place is the product of Vancouver’s improvement since mid-summer. Over their last 17 all-competition games, the Whitecaps are 8-2-7.

“Obviously, it’s a Cascadia [Cup] game,” Valeri said. “And, it is special.”

In his next response, though, Valeri noted the context of Wednesday night’s match. For the first time since August 29, Portland will be coming off a loss.

“We didn’t play a good game in LA,” Valeri conceded. “We know that. But we know, at this point of the season, we have a lot of games in a short period. So, we have to be focused on the next one, improving the things that we haven’t done well.

“That’s the most important, now: knowing that, at home, we need three points. And then, if we are able to do that, we’ll be closer to making the playoffs.”

Wednesday’s game is the first of three straight the Timbers will play on short rest. After traveling to play in Colorado on Saturday, they’ll be back home next Wednesday, when they host the San Jose Earthquakes.

Though they’ll get a week off before traveling to Real Salt Lake on November 3, Portland will again be on short rest when they close the regular season. Austin FC will be at Providence Park on November 7.

Timbers: Remaining 2021 regular-season schedule
Date
Opponent
H/R
October 20, 2021
Vancouver Whitecaps
Home
October 23, 2021
Colorado Rapids
Road
October 27, 2021
San Jose Earthquakes
Home
November 3, 2021
Real Salt Lake
Road
November 7, 2021
Austin FC
Home

The Timbers aren’t the only team in MLS dealing with tight windows, so the team’s schedule is less of a competitive disadvantage than a challenge. Adding to Wednesday’s challenge, though, will be the absence of midfielder Diego Chara — suspended because of yellow card accumulation — and the injury status of left back Claudio Bravo and center back Bill Tuiloma. Both missed Saturday’s game against the Galaxy. Both are listed as questionable for tonight’s visit from Vancouver.

Just as players like fullback Pablo Bonilla and midfielders Cristhian Paredes and George Fochive may have to step up in the absence of Chara, Bravo or Tuiloma, the entire Timbers team will have to rise to their short-rest challenge. In MLS alone, Portland is 5-5-3 on less than five days’ rest this year, though they’ve won the last three times they’ve had a short turnaround. From September 25 through October 3, the Timbers took nine points in three games versus Real Salt Lake, at Los Angeles FC, and at home against Inter Miami.

With a win on Wednesday, Portland recaptures that momentum. The Timbers have five games left to close the gap on the West’s higher spots.