With the race for MLS positioning now beginning to solidify, it has become clear what the regular season aims for our three local Cascadian clubs are.
Sounders FC have played themselves into such a goodÂ position that they can legitimately claim two objectives: a first ever Supporters Shield, and a top three Western Conference place.
The latter, as you will recall, guarantees them a position in the last eight of the play-offs.
Fail to make that, and they will enter a play-in round of four, where four sides will battle to join the sides who finished top three in the West, and those who managed the same in the Eastern Conference.
Therefore, as well as being able obviously to cheer their side to victory, fans in the Emerald City now know who Sounders FC need to lose in the other games.
In this case, they have three rivals, Los Angeles Galaxy, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake.
Last night was unhelpful. RSL won 4-0 over San Jose, albeit in highly controversial circumstances.
FC Dallas did manage a draw in faltering New York, but given they had a lead and a man advantage, Schellas Hyndman will be very disappointed to have thrown away two points after Thierry Henry scored a brilliant individual equaliser to save parity for New York. It was a lucky break for Seattle, possibly to be cheered all the way to Panama.
Portland’s task is different. Their aim is to squeak into tenth place in the MLS Full Table and make that play-in round of four.
After last night’s defeat in Columbus, they trail in 14th place. They have games in hand over their immediate rivals but the MLS Table by Points per Game shows them also to be 14th.
In short, they are not doing well enough to rely on the same performance in their matches in hand to lift them higher.
The list of sides Timbers fans need to lose is longer. It includes all those sides who are chasing tenth, except the three likely to qualify through the Eastern Conference placings regardless of their position in the full league table.
So Portland can pick three Eastern Conference sides to cheer on. Philadelphia Union, Columbus Crew and New York seems for now the best bets. They seem the most likely to qualify through those top three slots in their own Conference.
Timbers fans can cheer on those sides, especially if they are being opposed by any of Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes, Houston, Dynamo, DC United, or Chivas USA.
Those five clubs seem to be most likely to provide the rivals for places nine and ten in the regular season, having made the assumption that Colorado Rapids and one other top Western Conference side will finish comfortably in the top eight places.
In short, Portland Timbers are one of six sides seeking the final two places in the ten that will see further action.
To that end, the results last night were mixed.
Chivas USA won, but they did beat Houston. A draw might have been better. San Jose lost which was helpful. Sporting Kansas City did win however, although given they were playing Toronto, that wasn’t entirely unexpected.
Incidentally, Toronto are the side Portland have to beat next week. It’s a crunch game and failure to win all three points will be very serious.
They could also help dear old kitless Vancouver, whose sole aim for now seems to be avoiding 18th place.
Toronto are the most likely rivals to be caught so Caps fans can feel free to wish defeat on their Ontarian brothers, just a little more than normal.