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Downstream Game 16: Away to the Portland Timbers

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Timbers Stats

2020 Record: 11-5-5 W-L-T, 38 points at 1.81 points-per-game (1st in the Western Conference)

Goals: 45 for, 33 allowed, +12 differential

Last Result: Won against Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0

Last MLS Power Ranking Position: 6

I don’t even know what is happening right now.

After a rough game against Sporting Kansas City and a disappointing but not entirely unexpected result against Minnesota United, the Colorado Rapids came out against the Seattle Sounders firing on all cylinders.

Against one of the best teams in the league, we scored three goals and got three points. Sam Vines and Andre Shinyashiki both made the MLS Team of the Week, with Robin Fraser getting Coach of the Week. Keegan Rosenberry got Goal of the Week. All well-deserved, as put simply, Seattle was outplayed. They had every reason to think they could have walked in and left with a win, but instead they got beat.

538 now has us at a 98% chance of making the playoffs, with us technically not even needing to get any points between Portland and Houston. The only way we miss out is if we lose against both of them and the LA Galaxy win against Seattle and Vancouver. Any gained point on our side or dropped points from the Galaxy and we’re in.

It feels bizarre thinking that we actually might be in the postseason. But I’m optimistic. Just take a look at this quote from Matthew Doyle from MLS:

“I know there is understandable controversy about this given the five games Colorado missed and won’t have a chance to make up, but I don’t think there’s much question Colorado are better than the other teams that are in the hunt for that final playoff spot out West. Their record, their goal differential, their points per game (obviously) and wins like this one [are] proof.”

We have every reason to be confident and aim for that playoff spot… But that’s not to say we should take these games lightly. If we get even one point, we are safe, but let’s keep chasing that win. Now is absolutely not the time to lapse. So with all that, we have two remaining games. The first is against the Timbers on Wednesday, so how do they look as we aim for playoffs for the first time since 2016?

Portland is currently top of the conference, and as I have said and will continue to say until the heat death of the universe — they are quietly one of the best teams in the league. They never get the same coverage as Toronto FC, or Philadelphia Union, or especially their Cascadia rivals Seattle, but they are still excellent. Their offense has been on fire with 45 goals, which is the best in the league, though they do have a game in hand over LAFC who has 44.

They brought in a few players who have made a significant impact since the end of the 2019 season. Key among them have been Yimmi Chara (Diego Chara’s brother) and Jaroslaw Niezgoda. Both were signed to DP contracts, and of course they also managed to retain their MVP, Diego Valeri. Along with bringing in Felipe Mora on loan from Pumas in Liga MX, they’ve largely retained their core from 2019 and improved upon it.

They sadly have run into a bit of a problem with two of their biggest players on their front line. Niezgoda suffered a torn ACL on Sunday during the Whitecaps game and thus will be out for the rest of the season. I won’t celebrate this—losing a key player to a long-term injury is never something to celebrate—but it will make playing against them just a little bit easier.

On top of that, Sebastian Blanco, tore his ACL in September, so two of their three DPs are not available. Plus, Jeremy Ebobisse is still listed as questionable due to concussion protocol. The striker has been a major factor in them securing their spot in the playoffs with eight goals over just over 1,000 minutes of play.

The Timbers are going to be a challenge, regardless of their missing players. You don’t get to the top of the conference riding on the backs of just three players, you do it by fielding 11 players at a time. The Burgundy Boys will also travel to Providence Park, a tough place to get points at. All of this means that we should be in for a good matchup on Wednesday. But I said the same thing against the Sounders and we managed to get three points against them.

One point and we’re in. Here’s to making a solid push for the playoffs, and to making the postseason for the first time in too long.