Season over? Timbers prefer to hear whisper of playoff hope
After losing 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo on Friday night, the Portland Timbers' hopes of making the MLS playoffs are not dead and buried, but they are flatlining.
The loss took Portland's chances of being one of the 10 of 18 teams in the postseason from a possibility to a mathematical improbability.
The Timbers must now go on the road - where they are 2-9-4 - and face D.C. United (5 p.m. PT Wednesday) and Real Salt Lake (6 p.m. PT Saturday).
Portland was in 11th place as the league went into Saturday's key matches (Sporting Kansas City at New York, D.C. United at Chicago, and New England at Columbus).
The Timbers (11-14-7, 40 points) went into Saturday trailing New York (9-7-16) by three points and Columbus (12-12-8) by four points. D.C. United (9-11-11) had 38 points, and Chicago (7-9-16) had 37.
If the Timbers win out, they will have 46 points. But if they were to finish in a tie with New York and/or Columbus, they would undoubtedly lose out to the Red Bulls and probably to the Crew in the tiebreaker, which is goal differential. Portland has a -8 goal differential, New York is +7 and Columbus is -3.
The Timbers must hope that New York comes away with losses or draws against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday and the Philadelphia Union on Thursday. Also, Portland is rooting for Columbus stumbles Saturday against New England and Thursday versus Chicago.
After Friday's loss to Houston at Jeld-Wen Field, the Timbers' locker room was somber. But there were was still just the whisper of hope.
'It's disappointing,' Timbers defender Mike Chabala said. 'I know that everyone's feeling it, and it's difficult. The positive side is that we have two games left that are going to be very difficult on the road, and who knows what will happen?
"All we can do now is just make sure that we prepare and get ready for our Wednesday game against D.C., and hope that we get some luck on our side from New York.'
Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins will have an added incentive to win on Wednesday. Defeating D.C. United probably would keep his former club out of the postseason.
'For me, personally, I would love to see D.C. not make it, just from my experience there and being here now,' Perkins said. 'It would satisfy me very much to go beat them, and possibly get us that much closer to making the playoffs.'
Timbers coach John Spencer said his club will continue playing as hard as ever in the season's closing week.
'I'm still telling them that we're going to go get maximum points from the next two games, whether we were 20 points out of the playoff race or not," Spencer said. "The way we're trying to build things around here is that we give it the maximum every game. We will not be changing our philosophy. We're going to try to look to get as many points as possible.'
Midfielder Jack Jewsbury said the Timbers will be watching a lot of TV this week.
'Our mindset is the same as it was before this game,' Jewsbury said, after the loss to Houston. 'We've got to go on the road and get two wins to give ourselves a chance. At that point, we'll be watching some other games just to see what happens. Absolutely, we're going to have to get some results from some other people. But at the end of the day, every game you go out to win, and that's what we'll be doing.'
Perkins said that even if things do not go the Timbers' way he wants the team to develop the culture of fighting until the season's death certificate has been signed and the obituary has been written.
'It's something that you've got to start breeding,' he said.