For the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes, the playoffs have essentially started.
It will come down to Decision Day to see if one, or both, of these clubs can make their way into the postseason as they meet Sunday at Portland’s Providence Park.
As it stands, there are four teams with a shot at securing the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Portland (13-13-7), which endured a stretch of 12 straight home games to open the season, is sixth in the conference, one point better than FC Dallas, which owns the seventh and final playoff spot.
Two points back of the Timbers is San Jose (13-15-5), a club that won just four games in 2018, but sat as high as second in the West at one point this season. For Portland, the math is rather simple. Win or draw the Earthquakes and it’s in the playoffs. The Timbers can also get there if Dallas loses or ties Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
“We’re going to win this Sunday and hopefully make a long run,” a confident Jeremy Ebobisse, whose 11 goals are tied for the Timbers lead with Brian Fernandez, told the club’s official website.
In the case of the ‘Quakes, they’re also in with a victory. However, should San Jose draw Portland, it would need FCD to lose and Colorado to lose or draw versus Los Angeles FC. An Earthquakes’ draw, coupled with a Dallas loss and a Rapids win by one goal would also push them over the final playoff line in the West.
“We put ourselves in a huge opportunity, a good opportunity,” defender Nick Lima told the Earthquakes’ official website.
“We’re going to get the job done, and how this group knows how do it. It’s exciting.”
What adds to the intrigue of the biggest match on Decision Day 2019, is that neither club has won in a while.
Portland is 0-2-3 since winning back-to-back home games over Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, respectively. However, all three draws have come over its last three games.
San Jose, meanwhile, has totaled three goals while dropping a season-high five in a row since back-to-back home victories over Vancouver and Orlando City on Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, respectively. The ‘Quakes have also lost six straight on the road and the same amount at Portland, where they have totaled eight goals all time while going 0-8-3 there overall.
However, San Jose dropped Portland 3-0 at home on April 6. Shea Salinas, Danny Hoesen and Cristian Espinoza each scored first-half goals for the ‘Quakes in that contest.
Portland did not have Argentine star Fernandez available at that point, and won’t for this contest. Fernandez is out on a red-card suspension, so that could play to San Jose’s favor.
The Timbers, who have totaled just two goals while amid an 0-2-2 stretch at the updated Providence Park, seem confident to prevail minus Fernandez. They also won’t put much credence into what happened in the reverse fixture with San Jose.
“We’re a completely different team than we were back then,” Ebobisse said. “More united, more together as far as tactically as well.”
San Jose star and MLS all-time goals leaders Chris Wondolowski (14 goals in 2019) has four in eight overall matches at Portland.