The Portland Timbers are in the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs.
In any other year we might feel anxious about a possible conference semifinal matchup with Seattle. This year? We're just happy to have soccer to watch at all.
Let's recap. After convincingly taking home the trophy in this summer's MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando—part regular season free-for-all, part standalone tournament—the Timbers came back to Portland and the regular season with barely any time to enjoy the win. First they were bad. Then they lost star midfielder Sebastian Blanco to a torn ACL. Then, somewhat improbably, they were great. During stretches this fall, it looked like the Timbers were the team to beat in the West and seemed like shoo-ins to nab the top spot in the conference. October disappointed, though, and the Timbers placed third, just behind Sporting Kansas City and Seattle. (All three teams ended up with 39 points, with total wins and goal differential used as tiebreakers.)
And so here we are, with a first-round matchup at home against FC Dallas on Sunday, November 22 (7 p.m., ESPN). The pandemic has played havoc on schedules, and this will be the first meeting of the teams all year.
Two worrying things: the Timbers have a nasty habit of conceding stoppage-time goals, and the team has been ravaged by injuries and absences. Blanco is still out. Polish striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda also suffered a torn ACL just as he was hitting his stride. Dairon Asprilla, ever the late season hero, is questionable. Felipe Mora and Andy Polo took ill-timed national team call-ups for Chile and Peru, respectively.
Luckily, we still have the Diegos—Valeri is Valeri and the older Chara brother was added to the 2020 MLS Best XI this week.