• Jamie Squire/Getty

It was a put-up-or-shut-up sort of match, and on Wednesday night at Kansas City, the Timbers chose the latter.

Knowing a positive result was needed to justify any hope of a playoff run, Portland was listless on offense, conceded first (they're 0-11-3 this year after allowing an opening goal) and paid for multiple defensive gaffes in a 3-1 Sporting KC victory at shiny-new Livestrong Park. Granted, the Timbers wouldn't have clinched anything more than a relaxing flight home with a victory against a fellow playoff hopeful, but another head-scratching loss? If Portland's postseason dreams were on life support, this one felt like one big yank of the chord.

“I think that the window of opportunity for us to make playoffs is closing rapidly," said Timbers coach John Spencer in about as big of an understatement as you'll get from the diminutive but fiery coach.

Major League Soccer's playoffs admit 10 teams—three automatic qualifiers from each conference and four wild card clubs from either coast—and Portland currently sits in 12th place, five points behind New York for the final spot.

So is a playoff run impossible? Of course not. Improbable? Definitely.

Especially when Portland is out-shot 15-7. Or out-hustled from the opening whistle. Or out-worked on balls in their own box.

"It just comes to desire, how much we want it for the rest of the season," said Portland forward Bright Dike, who scored his first MLS goal in the Rose City's lone bright spot of the night. "We’re not by any stretch out of the playoffs, we have to know that and take that in."

The sense of disappointment Timbers fans undoubtedly feel this morning is real, but it comes from a positive place: They know this team is capable of better play because they've seen PTFC's top form multiple times this season (as recently as two weeks ago!). But perhaps the fans, the media and the half-assed pundits (Hi!) are foolish to think because they've seen it before, they should expect to see it again.

Expectations. Execution. Repetition.

No matter the order those words appear on a team's path to success, they feed into each other and can spin a season into any number of directions. And as has happened all year, the conjecture surrounding Portland has once again shifted.

At this point, I figure they'll maybe nab a couple more home wins (starting Saturday in a Cascadia Cup derby against lowly Vancouver), give some time to younger/developing players and close out the regular season without much drama. After two losses in crucial matches against a pair of wild-card chasers, I don't expect to see Portland in the thick of any playoff race in 2011. And after the way the Timbers fell Wednesday, I won't be expecting much of a fight from them the rest of the way.

Then again, who knows. Maybe my expectations of the Timbers will be proven woefully wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

Highlights after the jump, and more later on Bobblegate 2011.