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A scoreless draw! Futility football at its finest. Or, in the case of Portland and Philadelphia's 0-0 tie on Saturday, soccer in its most desperate state.

Two clubs, clawing at postseason hopes, playing like ... two teams, forced to claw at posteason hopes.

The Union, it seems, had the better excuse: Three days removed from an emotionally (and physically) draining 4-4 draw with New England, Philly drew from the reserve tank to pull even with a Portland side that'd seen its stamina topped off by 17 days of rest. Still, the home team was the aggressor from the first kick, creating the bulk of the chances but inevitably falling victim to various squanderings and well-placed cross-bars.

Portland's reason for not seizing the moment? Rust, maybe? A scheduled two-week international break was made epoch-long with Irene's postponement of PTFC's match at DC. And while the Timbers' legs looked fresh enough, a fortnight-plus' worth of training and mental reflection doesn't build cohesion nearly as well as game conditions. But as the ever-morphing Timbers begin to settle into shape, a road draw is an acceptable result with seven matches left in the season.

Portland will take the tie. And I hope the Timbers turned up the music post-match (a locker-room tradition after victories), because at this point in the campaign, road points work just fine in single doses.

Of course, a win against playoff-contending Philadelphia could've been a standings coup ... but I digress.

Portland still sits knotted up with New York with 33 points, but both are now one point out of the 10th and final playoff position. There are a trio of teams within three points (one win=three points) of Portland/NY (the Old Gray Lady's favorite Superteam) in the standings, and chances are, the final three MLS playoff contenders will come from this list:

8. Philadelphia Union, 36 points
9. Houston Dynamo, 35 points
10. DC United, 34 points
11. New York, 33 points
12. Portland 33 points
13. Chivas USA 31 points

So who has the inside track on extending its season? Can Portland still do this thing? Should you cancel your exotic plans for the last week of October? Which contending club will earn my Metaphorical Michele Bachmann crown? Answers to those burning questions—and more!—after the jump.

The Timbers are still against it in their quest to post-up their inaugural season. Still, if the playoff hunt had an especially thick, nougat-filled center, Portland would be right in the middle of it. But what of the other teams in striking range?

Philly: After leading the east for the lion's share of the summer, the Union are clinging to the final automatic-qualifier spot as one of the east's top three seeds. Winless in its last eight, Philly seems to be gasping for air a bit, but three of their toughest matches (vs. Columbus, Seattle and DC) are at home. Odds (in terms of GOP presidential candidates): Romneymatic.

Houston: The Dynamo have lost two straight and have observers wondering if they "want" the postseason at all. A tough schedule remains, with three no-cakewalk road matches (Columbus, Dallas and Portland) and the Galaxy to close the season. Their time might have passed. Odds: Newtish.

DC: The United have pulled it together since getting blanked 4-0 by New York six weeks back, and DC has played 25 games—two fewer than any of their fellow wild card suitors. They host Portland in a Oct. 19 make-up, and barring a major gaffe, are the favorites to advance moving forward. Odds: Perrying.

New York: The Red Bulls are winless in seven and face powerhouses FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake before hosting Portland on Sept. 24. That means means the Timbers could be hitting the Big Apple against a team riding high or feeling downright desperate. The Red Bulls then close October with lowly Toronto, legit Los Angeles, solid Kansas City and a potentially spent Philadelphia. Thing is, if they make the playoffs, they have the star-power to win the whole thing. Odds: Huntsmanesque.

Chivas USA: With 31 points, the Goats have lost three straight and face a "razor-thin" margin despite facing non-contending Chicago and Toronto over the next two weeks. They can't be counted out, but few have them in. Odds: Bachmanniacal.

So where does that leave Portland? Well, despite the acute lack of goals, the biggest sign of encouragement from the weekend was that the Timbers held an opponent scoreless on the road. Frankly, Philly should've won the match four times over, but fortune favors who it wants, and apparently the prayers emanating from MLS headquarters (what, you don't think the league would love to showcase the Timbers/Portland/Timbers Army in their postseason?) are being answered.

Portland nearly stole it in the 85th, but Kenny Cooper's 3-on-2-turned-full-footed-strike went just wide. PTFC fans undoubtedly (and understandably) groaned, but Cooper's overall play is emerging from the depths, and the back line is beginning to solidify around the steady play of Eric Brunner and David Horst.

Yes, my fellow Americans, the Timbers can still make it. Of their seven remaining matches, three are against teams all but out of the hunt. Should they join the race, one thing's for certain: Their backers will make more noise than anyone else. And that has to count for something, right? Odds: Palin.