The Portland Timbers clinched an MLS playoff spot Saturday without so much as a kick in pre-game warm-ups at Jeld-Wen Field.
Caleb Porter’s Timbers will obviously be driven for a result Saturday against Real Salt Lake, as there’s still plenty on the line. A winner at Jeld-Wen on Saturday would take a big step toward a Western Conference crown. Plus, Supporters Shield isn’t out of sight just yet, although Sporting Kansas City from the Eastern Conference has assumed the inside track on that one.
The Timbers officially clinched a spot when the Sounders fell to FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon. And how extra syrupy sweet it must be for the Timbers to have clinched a post-season berth based on the struggles for its most bitter rival, the Sounders!
Portland becomes the third team to officially book its post-season spot (and the first from the West, which still looks like the better conference in 2013), following the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City.
Being the first from the West to clinch is a major turnaround from a team that finished 8th among nine teams one year ago, under an interim manager, who had replaced John Spencer in mid-season.
This is Portland’s third year in MLS, where it is still mathematically easier to make the post-season than to miss.
Still, don’t forget that Toronto FC is about to complete its 7th MLS season, and yet remains desperately on the hunt for its first playoff appearance. Neither has Chivas USA every prevailed in a playoff series, although the Goats have been to the post-season, at least, since joining the MLS fight in 2005. All of that is just to show that things certainly can go wrong as these new franchises get out of the gate.