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  • 24 Oct 2014

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Showdown ends 0-0, but Timbers reach MLS playoffs

Before Saturday night’s match against Real Salt Lake, the Portland Timbers had clinched the first MLS playoff berth in franchise history.

The Seattle Sounders' 2-0 loss to FC Dallas earlier in the day assured Portland of at least being one of the top five clubs in the Western Conference.

The Timbers' regular-season home finale, played before an announced sellout crowd of 20,674 at Jeld-Wen Field, still had an extraordinary amount riding on it: a playoff seed and even a chance to win the Supporters' Shield, which goes to the MLS team with the best record after 34 games.

In a match that featured very little action, the Timbers walked away with a 0-0 draw.

RSL kept the ball .564 percent of the time, while Portland outshot the visitors 9-8 and put four balls on frame to zero by Real Salt Lake.

“We’re disappointed anytime we don’t win,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “We knew it would be a tight game. They didn’t get many chances. It was a bit back and forth between the boxes. But we looked to be in control most of the game.

“Making the playoffs is something that might get lost in the shuffle— and that’s okay,” Porter said. “To some extent, making the playoffs isn’t something we’ll talk about much, or even celebrate much. But it is a big thing for this club. It is a milestone.”

With the draw, first place is still up for grabs in the West between the Timbers (13-5-15, 54 points), RSL (15-10-8, 53 points) and the Los Angeles Galaxy (15-11-6, 51 points).

If Real Salt Lake wins Wednesday against Chivas USA and the Timbers lose next Saturday to Chivas USA, RSL would clinch first place. 

Los Angeles would need to win both of its final two matches and the Timbers would have to lose their game for L.A. to win the West.

The Timbers are still not out of danger from being the fourth or fifth seed, which would mean a one-game, wild-card playoff match.

A win by any two playoff-bound West clubs — RSL, the Galaxy, the Sounders or the Colorado Rapids and a Timbers loss would bump Portland out of the first three spots in the West based on the tiebreaker (wins).

If the Timbers can draw, or win next week, they would clinch one of the top three spots. A loss or draw by three of the other playoff-bound clubs also would keep Portland in one of the top three positions.

The Timbers still have a slim chance at winning the Supporters' Shield.

The New York Red Bulls (15-9-8, 53 points) will play Sunday against the Houston Dynamo and on Oct. 27 against the Chicago Fire.

Sporting Kansas City (16-10-7, 55 points) will play its finale against the Philadelphia Union on Oct. 26.

RSL is not out of the Supporters' Shield picture, either.

The Timbers will need to win the Supporters' Shield outright, as both Sporting KC and the Red Bulls would beat them in the tiebreaker (wins).

“We won’t really concern ourselves a ton with what the other teams are doing,” Porter said. “We try to control what we can control. You can drive yourself insane trying to figure out what the other teams are doing.

“We’re in a position right now where, if we get a result against Chivas, we should be top three, which is obviously a big thing. We could still win the Western Conference, or who knows, win the Supporters' Shield. But we want to get three points and avoid the play-in game.”

The Timbers came close to scoring twice in Saturday's first half.

In the 28th minute, midfielder Diego Valeri tried to run into the box to get on the end of a cross. He sent his sliding shot high, though.

In the 43rd minute, midfielder Kalif Alhassan made a run into the box to try to get on the end of a similar cross. Alhassan was not able to get to the ball in time.

The Timbers finally put a shot on goal in the 65th minute. Defender Jack Jewsbury sent in a cross for Rodney Wallace. The Timbers' substitute defender could not get to the ball, but it bounced to Alhassan. With no one marking him, Alhassan fired from eight yards, and the ball went directly to RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

In stoppage time, the Timbers had an incredibly dangerous free kick from 20 yards. Midfielder Will Johnson sent a rocket at the top right corner that was blocked by Rimando. Substitute midfielder Sal Zizzo got a head on the rebound and sent it at the goal, but Rimando was there again.

“Nick Rimando was the man of the match with the quality saves he made,” Porter said.