Timbers' simple formula: beat Dynamo, make playoffs

League: MLS

Posted on: 20 Oct, 2023 at 09:05 PM

Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers aim to book their postseason ticket on MLS Decision Day when they host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.

While the Timbers (11-12-10, 43 points) don't necessarily need to win Saturday to clinch a playoff spot, a victory would secure seventh place in the Western Conference. Without a win, Portland could land in the wild-card match between the eighth and ninth seeds -- or miss the playoffs entirely.

The Dynamo (13-11-9, 48 points) have clinched a playoff berth, and they could finish anywhere from second to sixth in the West based on Saturday's results. A top-four finish ensures Houston home-field advantage in the first round, which is particularly important for a team that is only 2-9-5 in regular-season road matches.

The Dynamo routed the Timbers 5-0 in Houston on Aug. 20. That contest started a 5-1-4 stretch for Houston over its past 10 matches, including a 5-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 7.

"The (previous) two games, we weren't killers," Dynamo coach Ben Olsen said after the Colorado match. "We didn't finish out plays to give us the points we needed, and we really kind of ... made sure that collectively that we were going to be a little sharper and really dialed in front of goal."

Portland fired coach Giovanni Savarese after that lopsided defeat on Aug. 20, and interim coach Miles Joseph has since gotten the club on track. The Timbers had a seven-match unbeaten run (5-0-2) prior to a 4-1 road loss to CF Montreal on Oct. 7.

Felipe Mora has been a huge part of that success, producing five goals and two assists in his past nine matches. The forward didn't make his season debut until June 24 due to a long recovery from two knee surgeries.

"Now I'm just racking up the minutes and scoring goals, which is what I want to do," Mora told the Oregonian. "Anything I can do to help the team win. ... Thankfully, I've been able to keep getting better physically with each game."

Cristhian Paredes and Zac McGraw missed Portland's last match due to injury but are expected to be available Saturday.

--Field Level Media