The 2011 expansion season for the Portland Timbers has been an interesting one. From the lows of losing games to the highs of having impressively loud sell-out crowds at JELD-WEN Field, this has been a fun year in the Rose City.
With two games left on their inaugural MLS slate, the Timbers can still get into the playoffs provided they get at least two wins in their final two games. First up is a visit to the East Coast to DC United tonight.
I may get a little flack or hate-mail for saying the following, but a win tonight for Portland is a good thing for MLS.
Here is what I mean by that. MLS's front office won't openly admit to such a thing, but you have to believe that a team like Portland reaching the playoffs over a team like DC would be a better advertisement for the league. You can't deny that should Portland somehow get into the playoffs and win the wild card round that the league isn't drooling at the thought of a playoff game at JELD-WEN.
If you were a potential sponsor watching the league's playoff games which would you want to see: A packed JELD-WEN Field, or a half-full stadium that is falling apart before your very eyes like RFK Stadium? Survey says, you pick Portland!
Sure, DC has a couple of big names that you want to see in the playoffs like Dwayne De Rosario and Charlie Davies - not to mention potential young stars like Andy Najar, Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen. But lately it seems that the Black-and-Red go only as De Rosario goes. Without him in the lineup lately United has suffered in the attack.
Portland on the other hand doesn't rely so much on a single player. Jack Jewsbury has helped spread the wealth around in the attack on the set pieces this season and others have stepped up when the set pieces have been locked down. Strikers Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza have been solid this season up front, while young guys like rookie Darlington Nagbe and Designated Player Diego Chara have helped chip in.
To think hypothetically for a moment, should the Timbers reach the playoffs, win the wild card, and upset the Los Angeles Galaxy - they could end up playing their Cascadia Cup rivals - the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference finals. You can't tell me the league front offices haven't had a nice dream about that prospect. If you think 64,000+ for a Kasey Keller farewell was impressive, I can't see a reason why CenturyLink Field wouldn't be completely open for a Cascadia Cup match in the Western Conference finals.
At the end of the day the league needs some attractiveness in the playoffs and Portland would fit that bill perfectly.
I know DC fans don't want to hear that their team isn't attractive enough for the league in the playoffs - I get that. But for MLS to get the most bang for their buck, they will want these Timbers in the post season over United.
For more on the two teams, check out SB Nation's Portland Timbers blog Stumptown Footy and D.C. United blog Black And Red United. Check out all of the MLS Cup playoff scenarios with our MLS Playoffs Cheat Sheet. For more on the entire world of footy, head over to SB Nation Soccer.