Caleb Porter didn't need to speak their name. He just needs them to win.
After a breezy 3-0 victory against the hapless, shorthanded San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night, the Timbers coach was asked which side he'd be rooting for this weekend when Portland's most bitter rivals (Seattle) takes on the team Portland is battling for the Western Conference's final playoff spot (Vancouver).
Sure, beating the Sounders never gets old, but if the Whitecaps do it on Friday, it certainly wouldn't help Portland's chances.
"Obviously, I think you know who I'm rooting for," Porter said. "As far as I know, Vancouver's just playing another team. Not sure who they're playing. I hope that other team beats them."
Portland could use the help—no matter where it comes from. The Timbers have gone so far as to give their fans written permission to root for their rival. Which seems appropriate, especially now that Portland finally appears to be in playoff form, having knocked off San Jose twice in a row in dominant fashion after a stinging road loss to Toronto two weeks back. That come-from-ahead loss—along with an injury to Capt. Will Johnson—could've been devastating. Instead, it appears to have galvanized the locker room.
"Maybe it was a blessing in disguise to lose how we lost," said Liam Ridgewell, whose defense helped Portland not only collect the clean sheet, but hold the Quakes without a shot on goal. "I think this is perfect time for us to feel like we're in the groove. I think everyone's hitting form at just the right time."
Especially MVP candidate Diego Valeri (who scored twice on Wednesday) and comeback kid Rodney Wallace (who had a hand in all three Timbers goals—including scoring one himself). The ever-humble, ever-record-setting Valeri had high praise for Wallace and his 'mates after Wednesday's match, but noted the tenuous situation Portland faces with just two regular-season matches to go.
"We have to stay focused every game and do our best every single moment, because now it's just a mistake and you're out," Valeri said. "We know that."
Highlights, full recap and video of Porter's postgame presser after the jump!
FROM THE TIMBERS:
Midfielder Diego Valeri tallied a brace and midfielder Rodney Wallace played a role in each of the team’s three goals, including scoring for a second consecutive match, as the Portland Timbers held the San Jose Earthquakes without a shot on goal in a 3-0 shutout in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,814 fans at Providence Park on Wednesday night.
With the win, Portland’s second consecutive regular-season home shutout at Providence Park, the Timbers moved back above the red line and into fifth place in the Western Conference standings with two matches remaining on the schedule. Portland (11-9-12, 45pts) now sits two points clear of Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10-8-13, 43pts) for the conference’s final postseason berth. Vancouver squares off against Cascadia-rival Seattle Sounders FC on Friday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
Valeri surpassed his own Timbers MLS-club, single-season record for goals (10, set in 2013) with a second-half brace, netting goals in the 51st and 73rd minutes to bring his 2014 total to 11. Valeri gave the Timbers a two-goal lead in the 51st minute, converting a penalty kick after Wallace was dragged down in the box by San Jose defender Jason Hernandez on a free kick.
Wallace also helped create Portland’s third goal in the 73rd minute, firing a low drive that San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch parried to Valeri, who slotted home the rebound for his second goal of the match. Valeri’s brace marks the eighth time a Timbers player has netted two goals in a game this season and marked the second consecutive match against San Jose in which a Timbers player has logged a brace after Wallace netted twice in a 2-1 win against the Earthquakes on Oct. 4.
Midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe helped set up Wallace’s game-opening goal in the 41st minute, keeping control of the ball near the top of the box before slipping a pass to Wallace on the left side. Wallace laced a strong, left-footed drive past Busch to give Portland a 1-0 lead just minutes before halftime.
Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts did not have to make a save on Wednesday as the Timbers handcuffed the San Jose attack, allowing the Earthquakes just eight shots with none on frame. It marked the first time in 2014 in which the Timbers have not allowed a shot on goal.
• With the win, Portland moved above the red line and into fifth place in the Western Conference standings with two matches remaining on the schedule. Portland (45pts) is now two points clear of Vancouver (43pts) for the fifth, and final, postseason berth from the Western Conference.
• Midfielder Diego Valeri set the Timbers MLS-club, single-season record for goals (11) with a brace on Wednesday night. Valeri netted his 10th and 11th goals of the season in the match, surpassing his old mark of 10 goals set in the 2013 season.
• Valeri also became the first Timbers MLS player to register consecutive seasons with double-digit goals (10 in 2013, 11 in 2014).
• Valeri has registered at least one point in 10 of the last 14 regular-season games for the Timbers, including four goals in the last five matches.
• Valeri’s brace was the second of his Timbers MLS career and marked the eighth time a Timbers player has netted a brace in 2014. Valeri registered his first brace on Oct. 26, 2013, in a 5-0 win over Chivas USA.
• Midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe added to his individual single-season career high in assists with his seventh of the season. Nagbe’s previous single-season high for assists was four (set in 2013).
• Nagbe made the 125th appearance of his Timbers MLS career, moving into sole possession of seventh place on the Timbers all-time appearances list across all eras since 1975.
• Midfielder Diego Chara made the 116th appearance of his Timbers MLS career, moving into the top 10 in all-time appearances across all eras for the club since 1975.
• Wednesday’s shutout marked the second straight clean sheet at home for the Timbers and their third consecutive home shutout in all competitions.
• With a capacity crowd of 20,814, Portland registered its 67th consecutive sellout at Providence Park. The Timbers have sold out every regular-season home game at Providence Park since 2011.
• Portland did not allow a shot on goal against San Jose on Wednesday, marking the first time in 2014 that the Timbers have not allowed a shot on goal to an opponent and the first time since Oct. 19, 2013, in a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake at Providence Park.
• Wednesday’s match marked the 32nd all-time meeting between the two teams in all competitions, across all eras. Since 1975, Portland is 16-10-6 overall against San Jose.
• The Timbers and Earthquakes met for the 11th time in MLS regular-season play as Portland improved to 4-1-6 overall.
• Portland increased its MLS-club single-season record in goals to 59 with three goals on Wednesday against San Jose. Portland is on pace to register 62 goals this season.
• The Timbers rank third in MLS with 59 goals. Only two teams, the LA Galaxy (66) and Seattle (61) have scored more goals this season.
• Portland has scored 33 of its 59 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches this season.
• The Timbers are 18-3-9 overall when scoring the first goal since the start of the 2013 season.
• Portland has tallied two goals or more in eight straight league games (nine consecutive matches in all competitions).
• The Timbers are unbeaten in five consecutive matches (3-0-2) against Western Conference opponents.
• With the win, Portland finished the 2014 regular-season series against San Jose with a 2-0-1 record.
• Portland is 16-4-13 at home since the start of the 2013 season.