D.C. United and the Portland Timbers can feel each other's pain, but that won't make for a cordial atmosphere when the two do battle in a crucial match Wednesday night at RFK Stadium (8 p.m., MLS Direct Kick/MatchDay Live/SBI Live Commentary).
Both teams are coming off of deflating home losses and remain on the outside of the playoff picture looking in with just days remaining in the MLS regular season.
Portland blew a chance to position itself for a postseason berth by dropping a home result to the Houston Dynamo last Friday. D.C. did the same, albeit in a more calamitous fashion, conceding two stoppage-time goals to the Chicago Fire to let a sure three points turn into a heartbreaking loss.
As a result, the importance of putting the weekend's failures aside and focusing on Wednesday's match isn't being under-stressed on either side.
Even with that, the odds of either team making the postseason at this juncture are long considering what needs to be accomplished on each team's end. For Portland to feel good about its chances, it needs two road victories — at D.C. and Saturday at Real Salt Lake. The issue with that is that the Timbers have just two road wins all year.
For D.C. to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2007, it needs to win its remaining two games. The problem there is that D.C. hasn't won consecutive games since June, 2009, and the club has shown little indication that it can rise to the occasion with its back firmly against the wall.
"At least we still have a shot," D.C. assistant coach Chad Ashton said following Monday's training session. "The last two days was going through the whole gamut of emotions and trying to get yourself back to 'OK, we can still do this.' Yeah, we need some help now, and it's not all in our hands, which is not the most pleasant thought, but at least we still have a shot."
D.C. and Portland are both in need of a little assistance, which would come in the form of a New York Red Bulls loss to the Philadelphia Union Thursday night. Both could also conceivably survive a Red Bulls' draw, but that would mean Portland winning out and D.C. coming up with two wins while overcoming a goal differential of seven.
Regardless of what may happen in Thursday's match at Red Bull Arena, D.C. and Portland still have a chance entering Wednesday night's clash. Expect that desperation and urgency to show from the opening whistle as the two teams fight for their postseason lives.
NOTES: The Timbers are expected to be without rookie Darlington Nagbe and winger Sal Zizzo, who are both on the shelf with knee injuries…The match marks the return of former United players Troy Perkins and Rodney Wallace to RFK Stadium…D.C. centerback Dejan Jakovic is listed as "probable" but Ashton gave him 50-50 odds of playing on Monday and seemed hesitant to throw him into the fire after such a long layoff. Jakovic has missed the last eight games with a hamstring injury and hasn't played since Aug. 21.
Who do you see winning tonight's match? Do you see either Portland or D.C. making the playoffs?
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