Portland, OR – The Portland Timbers snapped a winless drought last weekend, and can climb off the foot of the Western Conference on Friday.
Six losses and two draws in the stretch from early July to mid-August made the Timbers an afterthought in MLS this year. A win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC last weekend provided some much-needed relief.
And the first of two straight matches against the Colorado Rapids, who are two points away in eighth place in the West, could provide even more.
Portland (6-13-6) host the first match of the home-and-away series on Friday, with the second leg set for Sept. 5 at Colorado (8-16-2).
The match at Jeld-Wen Field this weekend presents an chance for the Timbers to climb out of the cellar, and it is an opportunity the Timbers cannot waste.
Portland has earned 21 of its 24 points at home this season, and just three on the road. So, the trip to Colorado could be an entirely different story.
But nine losses and three ties in 12 road matches will not matter this week as the Timbers play well at home and the Rapids are just 2-11-0 on the road.
Darlington Nagbe and Franck Songo'o scored in the win over Vancouver last week and Portland gained needed confidence from the result.
"I mean, we are happy, because it's been a long, long time without a win. In the beginning, we were trying and trying and working hard, and finally ... we got the three points, so we're happy for everyone," Songo'o said.
Now, Portland needs to build on the result. Otherwise, its chances of climbing off the foot of the table could vanish.
Colorado lost its last match to the San Jose Earthquakes, 4-1, and it was just another snapshot of the entire season.
Just 2-10-1 in their last 13 games, the Rapids have played one more match than the Timbers and cannot afford to drop six points in its series with Portland.
The most recent setback was tough, and Colorado coach Oscar Pareja was crystal clear that his club is just not playing good right now.
"We aren't playing good soccer right now, and we had to have our best game ... against the league's top team and we fell short," he said. "If we are going to salvage the season, we need to improve and make adjustments immediately and sustain that play for the last two months of the season."
That starts in Portland, where a result - even a draw - could be enough to put the team on track for the final two months of the regular season. And as poor as the year has been, the Rapids are just 11 points out of a playoff berth.
"We are not getting the results at the moment," Pareja added, "but all we can do is look forward to the next match, tighten up tactically and get three points to make up some ground in the standings."