The Portland Timbers will ride the wave of a seven-match unbeaten run into Saturday’s road game against CF Montreal, who are winless in their past seven contests.
Portland (11-11-10, 43 points) lost its first match under interim coach Miles Joseph late last month but hasn’t lost since, going 5-0-2 in its past seven matches. The Timbers head into the penultimate match of the season in seventh place in the Western Conference, with a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win against Montreal.
The Timbers are two points shy of sixth place and three back of fourth place while sitting one ahead of eighth place and two up on ninth.
“This time of year, every game you play is like a final,” Joseph said. “I think they’re in a similar position as we are. I think our focus will be on us and trying to maximize the points there because every point right now is important.”
The Timbers will get a boost in their bid to clinch with the return of two key players in midfielders Evander and captain Diego Chara.
Evander missed the past two matches with a calf injury. He leads the club with nine goals and has four of his past six matches. Chara has missed four matches after undergoing appendectomy surgery on Sept. 14.
CF Montreal (11-16-5, 38 points) maintained a pulse amid their tight playoff hopes with a 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday. The point was secured on a last-minute goal from Lassi Lappalainen in stoppage time.
The Canadian side is two points behind the eighth-place Chicago Fire and tied in points with New York City FC, which sits just below the playoff line. Three other teams are within two points of Montreal in the standings.
“You don’t have to say a lot to your players,” Montreal coach Hernan Losada said. “You see the table and you know that everything is still possible. It’ll be another important match Saturday and we’re going to give it our all. We’re still playing to win, and I hope our efforts will be rewarded in the end.”
Lappalainen’s potentially season-saving tally was his first since May 13. The Finland native, however, has contributed to two other goals over the past three matches with assists.