Austin FC will look to rediscover its home pitch magic when they host the road-challenged Portland Timbers on Sunday in a key late-season Western Conference match.
Both teams begin the weekend one point below the conference wild-card playoff line, with Austin in 10th place and the Timbers in 11th. The Verde has seven regular season matches remaining while Portland has six.
The Verde (9-12-6, 33 points) have dropped three straight home matches in all competitions for the first time since Sept. 2021 in the team's inaugural campaign but has never dropped four consecutive matches at Q2 Stadium.
Austin returns home after a 2-2 draw in New England on Sept. 2, with Emiliano Rigoni and Alex Ring scoring the Verde's goals, the latter of which was produced by Ring four minutes into second-half stoppage time.
"We know nothing more than three points is acceptable," Austin coach Josh Wolff said Thursday. "We gotta find ways to obviously take away some of their strengths but be hungry, be ruthless when opportunity comes and obviously show a level of control and maturity as well."
Conversely, Portland (8-11-9, 33 points) has won just once in its 14 road matches this season (with six draws), is winless in eight straight fixtures away from home (with five draws) and is tied with Sporting Kansas City for the fewest road wins in the West.
The Timbers have gone without a goal in five of those eight non-winning road matches.
But Portland has plenty of momentum to change that trend as it's scored at least two goals in each of the four matches since Miles Joseph took over as interim coach on Aug. 21.
Joseph has guided the Timbers to a 2-1-1 record since his ascension from his previous role as an assistant, including home wins over Los Angeles FC and Real Salt Lake and an away draw against rivals Seattle. Portland's latest game was a 2-0 win over LAFC on Sept. 9 in which Claudio Bravo and Larrys Mabiala scored goals.
"In general, guys were coming around and getting healthy," Joseph said about the past four matches. "That positive energy that comes along with that has been a really good way for us to move this group forward. And they're in a really good place for the weekend."
Portland will be without Diego Chara on Saturday after the midfielder underwent a successful appendectomy procedure Thursday afternoon,
The Timbers have gone unbeaten against Austin in the teams' past four meetings, winning three times before settling for a draw at home in May.
—Field Level Media