Still Dreaming

Victory against the Rapids took the Timbers out of the basement for the first time in what was in reality only a short while but felt so, so much longer. The recent turnaround in play and, crucially, results (I haven’t checked possession and shot stats, sorry) is sowing seeds of hope for 2013 when Caleb Porter will descend from on high – sorry, Ohio – to take over head coach duties.

A casual glance at the standings show that the Timbers are only 10 points behind Vancouver Whitecaps, and have played two fewer matches than our Canuck cousins. 10 points. 2 games. Do we really have to wait till 2013 for the good times to roll…?

I took the recent form of all the teams in the West (over the last six matches) and plugged it into the table to extrapolate how the season may finish.

[table id=3 /]

If you tighten it to the last five matches, the Timbers have the same points but Dallas leapfrog Whitecaps 43-40, so 44 is still the “magic number”.

It doesn’t look good for the Timbers’ play-off chances, but then if things simply run according to “form” we could all pack up already. Still, I do think that if the Timbers were to pull off the unlikeliest play-off run in recent memory, they would have to win at least 5 of their last 8 matches.

The two teams fighting it out for that 5th spot currently are Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas. For RSL, LA and Seattle the rest of the season will see them jostling for 2nd-4th while San Jose seek out their first Supporters’ Shield since 2005 with the cold-blooded determination of Walter White planning an expansion in territory.

Any Chivas fans reading this will, of course, first of all be wondering how the hell they ended up here, but secondly asking, “What about us? We’ve one more point than the Timbers, and we’ve played a game less!” To which I would reply, “Oh hey, Chivas, yeah, I, uh, I didn’t see you skulking about there. Um, yeah, this is awkward, you see, the thing is, no-one really cares about you. You should go and stand over there by New England cos he looks pretty lonely. Sorry, bro.”

Breaking down the run-in’s of Dallas and Vancouver, it’s clear that the advantage lies with the Canadian side. Of their final six matches, four are at home while Dallas hit the road for 3 of their last 5. To return to form tables, if both clubs were to hold up their respective home and away form the Whitecaps would end on 45 points to Dallas’ 37, but the Whitecaps would need to halt an alarming slide that has seen them lose their last four matches.

The Whitecaps and Dallas will meet in a couple of weeks in Texas for a proverbial “six pointer”. Portland will visit Vancouver in October in a match that will either mean everything or nothing, in play-off terms at least.

So let’s assume Dallas beat Vancouver, which there’s a good chance they will do. They then hit the road from three matches on the west coast, playing San Jose, Chivas and Seattle. You would expect San Jose and Seattle to win, and Chivas’ home form (the last couple of matches aside) has been decent so a loss there isn’t inconceivable, but let’s be charitable and give Dallas a point against LA’s Other Team. They would then host Chivas on the last day, and I’d fancy them to win that one, giving them 7 points and a final tally of 40.

If the Whitecaps were to lose both matches against Dallas and the Timbers, that would leave them 4 matches to pick up the points to overhaul Dallas (let’s say 4, to reach 41) as well as keep Portland in their rear view mirror. Those four games are at home to Colorado, Seattle and Chivas, and away to RSL. I’d back them to lose at RSL, so let’s narrow it down to three games. Colorado’s away record is abject, so the Whitecaps must pick up 3 there. Chivas aren’t the greatest travellers, but they can grind out a draw with the best/worst/most tedious of them. There’s the ‘Caps 4 points. Which leaves Seattle.

The Sounders are all over any faint play-off hopes the Timbers have. They play both Dallas and Vancouver, and there are two matches against the Timbers to come this year, beginning a week on Saturday when the Sounders return to Jeld-Wen Field.

If the Timbers are to have any hopes of turning the season around, they need other teams to help out and that means Seattle. I already have Seattle beating Dallas, and here I have them drawing with Vancouver. Sounders losses in both, or either, circumstance could put take the matter well out of Portland’s hands. It’s as uncomfortable as having a jaggy nettle thong riding up your sheugh to be in any way relying on them, but if the Timbers are to snaffle 5th place we’d need the Sounders to do their job.

So, by my very rough and ready reckoning, I have Dallas on 40 and Vancouver in 5th on 42. Not too far removed from the form table above. With Portland Timbers currently on 27 points, it’s still a five-win minimum required. [Or 4 and three draws – A Pedant]

What are the chances of the Timbers pulling it off?

Match 1 – @ Colorado

The Timbers just beat the Rapids, stringing together two wins for the first time in almost exactly a year. The Timbers haven’t yet won three-in-a-row in MLS, and are without a road win this year, but this is one they simply have to win. Draw or defeat here takes play-off talk that is already stretching credibility and shifts it towards Scientology-levels of couch-jumping batshittery. It’ll be a tough match, but the Timbers can do it. Win

Match 2 – vs Seattle

A win would not only propel them forward in the play-off hunt, it would secure the Cascadia Cup for 2012. A home match against your rivals doesn’t need any more hype, but if the Timbers can pull of a repeat of the earlier victory at Jeld-Wen then that would be 2 wins down, 3 to go. Win

Match 3 – @ San Jose

Ha. Well. Yeah. This is where things get tricky. The Earthquakes have been imperious at home with 6 wins in their last 7, and an unbeaten run of 12. They’ve managed to score 4 or more at home on 5 occasions so, even though the Timbers beat them earlier this season, I don’t think you’ll find many tipping them to leave Buck Shaw with so much as a point. Loss

Match 4 – @ RSL

We follow up arguably our toughest trip with another from Brick McShithouse’s Bumper Book of Hard Grounds. Though RSL haven’t hit the heights they have in previous years, it’s still not easy to pick up points there. Clean sheets in 3 of their last 5 matches indicate that any potential Timbers success there will have to be founded on an immense defensive performance. So, yeah, a point would be a good result here, but that’s not a win… Draw

Match 5 – vs DC

Back to Portland for the visit of DC United, and another must-win-if-there-is-even-the-slightest-of-slight-hopes match. DC don’t travel well – losing their last six road matches prior to their upcoming match against Philly – and have only won once in their last 6 trips to the West Coast, and that was last year. A draw here would be two points catastrophically dropped. Win

Match 6 – @ Seattle

Assuming the Timbers had won 3 of their last 5, and other results had favoured them, we would travel up the I-5 as Cascadia Cup champs and with a play-off spot firmly in our sights. You can bet your #GWOut two-stick that the Sounders would love nothing more than to be the team that killed that dream off. The usual derby clichés apply – “form out of the window” and so forth. The Sounders have the best home defence in the West and we ain’t exactly banging them in on the road. Dispassionately you could say a draw would be a good result, however nothing but victory will do in a match like this. Win/Draw

Match 7 – @ Vancouver

Another Cascadian battle, and one that I’ve already said could be decisive. With 3, potentially 4, wins till now, this could be hugely important in the chase for 5th place. I like how we match up against Vancouver, and if we had the kind of momentum behinds us that a play-off charge would bring, I’d fancy us to win here. Win

Match 8 – vs San Jose

The season ends with the visit of San Jose. There is a good chance that San Jose could have the conference title sewn up by the time they visit, but a potential push for the Supporters Shield will ensure a tough match as well as simply wanting to keep up momentum for the play-offs. Though the Earthquakes have lost three of their last four road matches, their overall records isn’t bad. I’d hate to go into this match needing a win, but as I said earlier, we have done it before. Draw/Loss

Clearly the chances of reaching the post-season are slim. They’d have to do something they haven’t done all year – win on the road – at least twice, but the last couple of road matches have shown signs that it’s not beyond believable that they could. Of course, this whole article could be moot, and the subject of retrospective amusement, over come Thursday morning, and it would remain that precarious all the way through the run-in where a single misstep would kill us off.

But then what is football without dreams, or without hope? Just a bunch of guys kicking a ball about a field. So I say screw that, the Timbers still have a dream, and for so long as cruel reality doesn’t kick me awake, so do I.

#RCTID


The featured image for this post is from Timbers Army.org

[post_ender]

14 thoughts on “Still Dreaming

  1. I was also going to recommend sportsclubstats.com, a great way to waste many hours. It show that a victory at Colorado increases our chance of making the playoffs from 0.4% to 1.4%–still batshittery territory, but still. My main goal for this season at this point is to win one on the road. The opening at new Jersey is the ONLY sign I have seen all season that the Timbers can do this. It will be very interesting to see what adjustments each side makes.

  2. “…a jaggy nettle thong riding up your sheugh…”

    Ooh. That kinda sums up this season, donnit? Thanks for THAT image…

    Sadly, I don’t think we can count on taking nine points from the Orcas. I suspect that they’ll draw against us here and then either draw or win back at the House of Astroturf. I’d love to think this could all happen.

    Our early season slough makes it difficult for me to look at postseason with any sort of complacency. And the truth is that a first-round exit from the playoffs – a good possibility, given the likely opponents and our record against them – wouldn’t be all that such of a muchness. I think we the supporters have to accept the trainwreck that is this season and look to rebuild a solid foundation for NEXT season.

    That said, bringing the Cascadia Cup home to Portland this year would be terrific, AND very possible. All we’d need to do is either beat the Sounders once or draw them twice. Right now we’re dead last in that derby (and the two years we won were the two that Seattle was up in MLS) and a win this year would draw us even and be the first time we will have won in the full three-sided competition. Baby steps, but I want to see that silverware in the trophy case, and I’d be happy with that for now.

    Next season? No; I’d love to see us challenge for the last playoff spot. But this year we need to sort out our issues at home.

    1. Yeah, I don’t think it will happen but I was just struck looking at the table that, for as bad as this season has been, it’s far from a foregone conclusion which is kinda mind-bending all on its own. Imagine if we could put together even just a halfway decent season!

    2. By the by, I’d love to have you contribute to the site, if you have anything you’d like to write about. I always find your comments to be really well-thought out and considered. Gimme a shout if you’re ever interested.

  3. This is the most encouraging thing I have seen in quite a while. Thank you for sharing it. I had thought that we had only a technically possible chance to the playoffs, but this shows that we can foresee the playoffs with only the usual level of unwarranted enthusiasm.

    I would rather you used a home/away rather than a ppg model, though. It seems that a team with five away games is in a different situation than a team with two games away left.

    Ultimately, of course, no predictive model will be of much use. There are just too many factors. Like the Timbers’ tendency to win the big game while losing to a weaker team. Predict that!

    Thank you.

    1. That’s why I mentioned it in the piece as there’s a big difference in Vancouver and Dallas’ run-ins and it skews it much more heavily in the Whitecaps favour, though they’ll need to correct their tailspin first. It was just a few too many columns on the table!

  4. Don’t tease me.

    Until we start winning on the road any talk of playoffs, for 2013, is premature. For now I will just focus on winning the Cascadia Cup and hope the recent run of form continues until the end of the season and into next year.

  5. There are so many “what-if’s?” to this season (as in every season with every team to be sure). I just cannot stop going back to the SLC match. How much did that late collapse kill the confidence and just begin the harsh descent. Do you remember when the big fight on twitter was if we should still sing “Fools Rush In?” I long for the days of FoolsRushInOUT.

    Hopefully a late season surge will get the guys at least believing there is a plan and a style of play that they can then train towards during the offseason. It would be amazing to go on the end-of season-run of all end-of-season runs, but identifying a core group of players that know what is expected of them in the offseason would be a slightly silver lining to this ^*#@^&$ of a season.

    Off-topic–When Al-Hassan is healthy, where does he fit? For Zizzo or super sub?

    1. There’s always something on twitter haha. It’s the songs/it’s the FO/it’s Boyd/it’s the cursed white kit…

      This is probably the weakest the west has been in a while. Colorado are all at sea, and LA and RSL aren’t looking as strong as they have done in previous years. With 5 of 9 making the play-offs it’s pretty forgiving as our terrible season, yet still being in with a (slim) chance, shows and if you can carry momentum into the play-offs, the MLS Cup has more than a few “unlikely” winners etched on it.

      Hopefully Porter can bring some stability. I don’t expect us to be running away with it, challenging for the Supporters’ Shield (though that’s the hope!) but making the play-offs is a must. And once you’re there, who knows? You’ve got to buy a ticket to win the lottery.

      1. Maybe at the end of the year, we need to put together a compilation for everything that was demanded out this year:

        #FoolsRushInOUT
        #JewsburyOUT
        #SpencerOUT
        #GWOUT
        #SpicedIPAOUT
        #WhitekitsOUT
        #GreenongreenOUT

        Maybe this is a post. Does the website have a satire section? Some humor? Some Timbers fan fiction? (I think I am kidding on last part)

    2. I don’t care if Al-Hassan is healthy or not… you’ll take Zizzo out of the starting XI when you pry him from my cold, dead fingers.

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