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Timbers shoot for total of 43 points or more

‘Playoffs’ already on as team needs to win down MLS stretch

The playoffs have come early for the Portland Timbers. With a record of 10-13-7 (37 points), Portland has slipped to 12th in the MLS standings —and 10 clubs will make the postseason. “It feels like we’re in the playoffs now,” striker Kenny Cooper says. “The games are so important. It’s an exciting time of the season.” The Timbers trail the 10th-place New York Red Bulls by two points. Portland trails the ninth-place Philadelphia Union by three. With four matches left, three on the road, every result matters for the Timbers. Coach John Spencer figures they need to pick up six or seven points to extend its season. “The 43-, 44-point mark is going to get you in there,” he says. It would take two wins, or two wins and a draw. Can the Timbers do that? “Absolutely,” defender Mike Chabala says. The Timbers faltered last week. They turned a 1-0 lead over the San Jose Earthquakes into a 1-1 draw at home. Then they missed a golden opportunity to catapult over New York, losing 2-0 on the road. Cooper says he saw enough over those two matches, however, to give him confidence heading into Sunday’s road match against Vancouver. “It’s encouraging that in these last couple of games the team has looked really sharp and done really well,” Cooper says. “We didn’t get the result we wanted in New York, but the team did some great things.” Cooper says the Timbers will need to rally around one another to give the fans what he feels they deserve. “We’ve got to believe in each other,” he says. “I think we do. Our fans deserve to be in the playoffs. We all want to get in there for them. And we’re all incredibly hungry to make it there.” Chabala says the Timbers need to go for the jugular in each match, including the home finale Oct. 14 versus Houston and road games Oct. 19 at D.C. United and Oct. 22 at Real Salt Lake. “Killer instinct,” Chabala says. “It’s a mentality more than anything. It’s stepping out there on the field and rolling up your sleeves and just getting the job done, because we don’t have any other choice.” Spencer knows that the Timbers could miss the playoffs. If that happens, he will provide no excuses. “We’ve never, ever as a staff or myself as a head coach tried to buy time and said, ‘It’s going to take two or three years to build this thing,’ ” he says. “It might take two. But we’ve never ever asked for it.” With this season’s heart still beating, it is like playoff soccer for the Timbers: Win or go home. “We have to win this game (against Vancouver),” Chabala says. “We need to get six points out of the next two games and then deal with the two games after that.”