Biggest game of the season? Maybe.

Portland is about to travel to Vancouver for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday showdown with the Whitecaps. Fifth place in the MLS Western Conference, and the inside track to a playoff berth, will be on the line.

While the Cascadia Cup already is out of the question for the Timbers, a win would boost the Timbers (7-8-10, 31 points) one point above the ‘Caps (7-5-12, 33), although Vancouver still would have one game in hand.

“It’s a massive game,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter says. “It’s looking like it’s going to come down to us, Vancouver, Colorado, maybe San Jose creeps in for that fifth spot. Right now, four teams — Salt Lake, L.A., Seattle and Dallas — that pack is sort of running away. You never know, one of those four may stumble, but we need points.”

The Timbers are coming off yet another big game, though, in which they did not seize the opportunity to get above the red line in the West. Last Sunday, the Timbers were stomped 4-2 on their home field by the Seattle Sounders.

“I’ve now given 25 team talks, and going into this game it felt like the easiest one I had to give because there is so much motivation,” Porter said, after the loss. “Rivalry game, we are two points off the red line and the opportunity to go above the red line. We’re at home. I thought we were up for it.”

Portland also has a habit of beating its opponents on the

stat sheet, but not on the scoreboard. The Timbers consistently outpossess and outshoot their opponents.

“The stats tell a story in a soccer game, but, ultimately, moral victories aren’t what we are looking for at this stage,” Porter says. “We’ve got to get three points. I’d take less possession, less shots and less corners if we got three points.”

n Seattle and Vancouver are battling for the Cascadia Cup, which goes to the team that wins the head-to-head season series among the three Northwest MLS teams. The Sounders are 2-1-2 (8 points); Vancouver is 2-0-1 (7 points). They will play at Seattle on Oct. 10.

— Stephen Alexander

Contract Publishing

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