It was all going so well for the Portland Timbers until a brutal stretch in the schedule hit. Now, Caleb Porter's side finds itself fighting for its postseason life, although the schedule has lightened considerably.
Following a run that included two games against first-place Real Salt Lake sandwiching a bout at rival Seattle, Portland sits in fifth place and the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The club embarks on a two-game stretch against two of MLS' lightweights, though, with Saturday's home match against Toronto FC and next week's clash with Chivas USA.
The Timbers' recent struggles can be attributed to injuries as well as tough competition, with captain Will Johnson missing a month of action with a broken bone in his shoulder. He has returned to training and is hoping to take on Toronto FC. The revolving door in the Timbers' midfield continues to turn, though, as playmaker Diego Valeri suffered an adductor strain against RSL in the club's last match, and his status is uncertain for Saturday.
International duty has claimed three other Timbers, with forward Ryan Johnson, defender Alvas Powell and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts all reporting for the Jamaican national team.
Toronto will be hit hard by the international fixtures as well, missing four Canadian national team players: Defenders Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry and midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Kyle Bekker. Morgan's absence opens a place for Swiss left back Jonas Elmer to make his first appearance since joining the club in August.
Portland rides a three-game winless streak into the match at Jeld-Wen Field, which has been a haven for success yet again in the club's third season. The Timbers are 7-1-4 at home this season, while Toronto is just 2-8-3 away from BMO Field.
The Reds, who are headed for a seventh consecutive season without reaching the playoffs, have been reduced to playing the roll of spoiler and will take to the field for the first time since president and general manager Kevin Payne's sudden dismissal this week.