VILLARREAL – Road victories have been hard to come by for the Timbers, but they'll likely need to find a way to win away from Portland to make the playoffs.
Although the Vancouver Whitecaps are already eliminated from playoff contention, this might not be the best time to visit them.
The shorthanded Timbers try for their second road win of the season Sunday afternoon when they face the Whitecaps, who should be energized for their first game in the newly renovated Bell Pitch at BC Place.
Portland (10-13-7) is sitting just outside of the playoff picture with four matches remaining, but three of those are on the road. The Timbers are 1-9-4 away from Portland, with the lone victory coming at Chicago on July 16.
"We know we have three more road games and the fact of the matter is we're going to have to get some results on the road to make the playoffs," captain Jack Jewsbury told the Timbers' official website after last Saturday's 2-0 loss at New York. "I think everyone in this locker room knows that."
Portland coach John Spencer believes some of the team's road woes stem from traveling from the Pacific Northwest to cities several thousands of miles away. The trip to Vancouver is one of the shortest for the Timbers, but it may not be an easy one.
After spending the first six months of the season playing home games at Empire Field, where they went 4-4-5, the Whitecaps will play four of their five October matches at their new downtown home.
"Any time you start in a new venue it's important you start off well," Vancouver coach Tom Soehn said. "We're excited for the first opportunity there."
The new BC Place has a retractable roof, a new Polytan synthetic surface - which has a FIFA 2-star rating, the highest possible - and a seating capacity of 21,000.
"With the atmosphere in BC Place, we'll definitely be up for the game," Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly said. "It's up to us to do our job."
Having to face a motivated Whitecaps team likely won't be easy for the Timbers, and taking the field without two of their top playmakers will be an even greater challenge.
Jewsbury, who leads the team with seven goals and seven assists, won't be available in this game with Portland's Cascadia Cup rivals because of yellow-card accumulations. The Timbers will also be without Kalif Alhassan, second on the team with six assists, after was he whistled for a hand ball in the penalty area last Saturday, drawing a red card.
The Whitecaps (4-15-10) closed out their stay at Empire Field with a 3-1 loss to Seattle last Saturday. Camilo Sanvezzo opened the scoring in the 22nd minute for Vancouver, which fell to 1-4-1 since Aug. 13.
The Timbers handed the Whitecaps one of those defeats, winning 2-1 on Aug. 20. Diego Chara and Jorge Perlaza had first-half goals for Portland before Camilo spoiled Troy Perkins' shutout bid, scoring in the 88th minute.