If the Portland Timbers have their first-choice lineup available on Saturday, their 3 p.m. PT match at Toronto will provide a true test of how ready they are for another late-season run.
"They're the best team we've played," Portland coach Caleb Porter says, basing his opinion on watching video.
At 12-3-8, Toronto has jumped ahead of Chicago to lead the Eastern Conference — and all of MLS — with 44 points. Toronto is 8-0-3 at home.
The Timbers make the trip to the Eastern time zone with a 9-8-7 record. They are one of four teams tied for second in the Western Conference with 34 points, though Portland has played more games than the other three so is listed in fifth place.
One indication of how tight the West playoff race is: Each of the top seven teams has nine wins.
"We've played a lot better than the points indicate," Porter says. "I'm really pleased with how we've been playing, and some of those games were with a lot of guys injured."
Injuries might again factor into Porter's lineup options. The status of both defender Liam Ridgewell and striker Fanendo Adi was a bit of a mystery after each left last weekend's win over Los Angeles. Neither had trained as of Wednesday.
If Ridgewell cannot go, Lawrence Olum likely would pair with Larrys Mabiala in central defense. If Adi cannot go, Darren Mattocks is a good bet to start up top, though rookie Jeremy Ebobisse is an option.
Ridgewell has missed 14 of the Timbers' 24 matches with an injured quad. Having the captain in the middle of the defense will be critical to the team's chances of qualifying for the playoffs. The hope was that Ridgewell only broke up some scar tissue against L.A.
Vytas figures to return to left back; Roy Miller is suspended for caution accumulations. Vytas has not played in the last four matches, though he was on the bench for the last two. Marco Farfan (ankle) has not yet returned to training.
Coming off a 3-1 win over the Galaxy, Portland has two wins and a draw in its last three games and has lost only once in its last seven matches. On the road, the Timbers are 3-6-3.
Both Toronto and Portland have had 14 players score goals this season. Diego Valeri — who won MLS goal of the week honors for his 30-yard goal against L.A. — leads the Timbers with 12 goals. Adi has 10 and Sebastian Blanco five.
Toronto is led by Sebastian Giovinco's 11 goals and nine from Jozy Altidore. Porter calls the Toronto forwards "the best two strikers in the league in terms of how they play together, their individual ability to score goals."