The fight for fifth in the West will take place in Cascadia, with today’s meeting between Portland and Vancouver primed to give one rival an edge on the conference’s final playoff spot. With a one-point lead on their northwest adversaries, the Whitecaps enter today’s game in line for a postseason return, but Portland’s 3-0 win on Aug. 30 in Vancouver suggests the home side will have the advantage in the teams’ final meeting of the season.
Coverage from Providence Park starts on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, with New York and Seattle rounding out our MLS doubleheader tonight at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
[ WATCH: Timbers host Whitecaps on Live Extra ]
Three weeks ago, Portland temporarily wrestled fifth away from the struggling Whitecaps, with goals from Alvas Powell, Maxi Urruti, and Rodney Wallace making amends for the June victory Vancouver earned in Oregon. Though the Timbers have since given fifth back to their rivals, a repeat of last months’ result will put Caleb Porter’s team in position for a second straight postseason berth.
With only six matches left in the season (and a six-pointer in front of them), now’s the time for Vancouver to change course. Since defeating Seattle 1-0 at home in July, the Whitecaps are 2-3-6, with their only wins coming at home against Sporting Kansas City and San Jose. Having since acquired Mauro Rosales from Chivas USA, Vancouver has changed its look, featuring the former Sounder as a focal point last week against Dallas. The extent to which Carl Robinson can fit him next to Pedro Morales may determine the Whitecaps’ playoff future.
For the Timbers, so much comes down to the play of playmaking star Diego Valeri, but in Darlington Nagbe and Rodney Wallace, the Timbers have threats across the middle of the park, often leading to Fanendo Adi and Urruti’s names on the scoresheet. With the team’s leaky defense, those talents are often left trying to outscore the opposition, but against a Whitecaps side Portland shutout in Vancouver, the defense will be looking to post its fourth clean sheet of the season
Portland: Ricketts; Powell, Kah, Ridgewell, Villafana; Chara, Johnson, Valeri; Nagbe, Adi, Wallace
Vancouver: Oustead; Beitashour, O’Brien, Waston, Harvey; Rosales, Laba, Morales, Teibert; Fernandez, Hurtado