Progress without success for Timbers

Portland returns home after promising road trip, but still searches for a win
Aug. 20, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,
Darlington Nagbe, left, and Rodney Wallace hope to get Portland past Vancouver Saturday.
Photo by Cliff Pfenning,

It's been five weeks and seven games since Portland Timbers management fired coach John Spencer as part of a move to reinvigorate the team for a second-half run at a playoff berth.

All they've achieved, though, is a run to the bottom of the MLS standings.

Since July 14, when Portland replaced Spencer with general manager Gavin Wilkinson on an interim basis, the Timbers are 0-5-2 and lead only Toronto FC among the 19 MLS teams. They've fallen to last in the Western Conference, and have no chance at reaching the playoffs.

What's more (or less) they're at the bottom of the MLS Power Rankings, a showcase of the respect the team has generated among the league's observers.

The team traded popular goalkeeper Troy Perkins, and designated player Kris Boyd seems to play with less inspiration every game.

Can get season get worse?

Can the season get better?

If there is a better half of the season awaiting, it'll have to start Saturday when the team plays host to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second meeting between the teams, and the third game within the Cascadia Cup, the fan-created trophy awarded to the team that scores the most points in games between Portland, Vancouver and Seattle.

With a draw against Vancouver, May 26, and a win over Seattle, June 24, the Timbers (5-13-6, 21 points) lead the chase for the Cup with two games remaining against each of the Northwest rivals.

Both Seattle (11-6-7, 40 points) and Vancouver (10-9-7, 37 points) appear headed for the playoffs, but claiming the Cascadia Cup would at least be salvaging something for the Timbers and their fans.

Taking the Cup from Seattle would be a first for Portland with all three franchises playing at the same professional level.

The recent two-game road trip to Toronto and New York produced four goals for Portland, the first time the team has scored twice on the road since it joined MLS last year.

Although the tirp produced no wins, the offense and some inspired play from across the line-up seem to show the Timbers aren't ready to simply roll up and wait for the season to conclude, although they really only have four meaningful games remaining on their schedule:

Saturday, Vancouver at Portland, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15, Seattle at Portland, 12:30 p.m.

Oct. 7, Portland at Seattle, 6 p.m.

Oct. 21, Portland at Vancouver, B.C., 6 p.m.