Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

Five days after the United States men's national team failed to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986, the Portland Timbers will retake the field to resume their MLS Cup chase on Sunday evening at Providence Park (4:30 p.m., TV on ROOT Sports).

The U.S.'s failure in Trinidad will, unavoidably, cast a pall over the game. For current and former Timber greats Darlington Nagbe and Jorge Villafaña especially, starters on Tuesday night, that failure is devastating. Both players will be in their 30s in 2022. It's doubtful whether they'll ever play at the World Cup.

The History

DC United's last trip to Providence Park came nearly nearly two-and-a-half years ago, in May of 2015.

That game, marked at the start by the Timbers Army's "Same As It Ever Was" protest banner, feels a long time ago. Gaston Fernandez and Maxi Urruti combined for the game-winning goal, while Will Johnson captained the team in his first start since breaking his leg at the end of the 2014 season.

Portland won that game against a second-string DC side 1-0, and would go on to win five of their next six as they jumped above that red line referenced in the TA's banner and stayed there for the rest of the season — which, of course, culminated in Columbus that December with an MLS Cup victory.

The Timbers traveled to RFK Stadium last August, and lost 2-0. It was the second of the seven straight road defeats the Timbers suffered to end the season as they missed the playoff by a single point.

DC's 2017 has not gone at all according to plan. Ben Olsen's team sits in last place in the Eastern Conference, with the worst goal differential in MLS. The club will close RFK next weekend, and open the new Audi Field next June.

The Tactics

Nagbe wasn't the only Timber who played for his country on Tuesday night. David Guzman started for Costa Rica, whose loss to Panama knocked the U.S. out.

Guzman won't mind much. His country is in, having clinched their spot in Russia with a stoppage time goal from Vancouver's Kendall Waston on Friday in San José. Guzman will, in all likelihood, become the first active Timber to play at the World Cup next summer.

Nagbe and Guzman should both be available for Sunday, though both must be spent emotionally. If the wear and tear on either is significant, Dairon Asprilla could start on the wing.

Up top, though he said he expects him to play again in 2017, Fanendo Adi remains sidelined. Darren Mattocks is in line his seventh straight start. The big lineup question is at left back, where Roy Miller had a torrid outing in San Jose two weeks ago — perhaps opening the door for Vytas to reclaim the job.

These are three points that the Timbers need. Sporting, Portland, Seattle, and Houston are separated by just two points in spots 2-5 in the Western Conference — and a victory, depending on results elsewhere, could set the Timbers up to overtake the first-placed Whitecaps on the final day of the season.

The Lineup

1 - Attinella
5 - Vytas
24 - Ridgewell (C)
33 - Mabiala
16 - Valentin
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
6 - Nagbe
8 - Valeri
10 - Blanco
11 - Mattocks

The Pick

Expect more of what we saw from the Timbers against Orlando three weeks ago: a big 3-0 home win.