The Portland Timbers have gone 15 games without losing. They've climbed into second place in the Western Conference. And this weekend they have a little extra motivation: It's rivalry week.
The Timbers host the Vancouver Canucks, their Cascadia Cup rival, on Saturday at Providence Park in Portland.
"These rivalry matches are the ones that bring something extra to the game, so definitely motivated, excited. The players definitely are ready already from today looking forward to the weekend," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said, according to the league's website. "It will be great to play against a rival team like Vancouver."
Portland (10-3-7), which is coming off a 3-0 home win over Philadelphia, is a point clear of Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles FC and trails first-place Dallas FC by five points.
It was the second straight win for the Timbers, who had two draws in a row before that. They are 10-0-5 during their unbeaten run.
Portland and Philadelphia played to a scoreless first 45 minutes, but the Timbers got two goals on penalty kicks as they dominated the second half.
"I thought the first 30 minutes in the first half were too slow with the ball movement," Savarese said, according to The Oregonian. "We had too many guys too far back, so we weren't creating too much going forward.
"I thought the second half was much, much better. We went a little bit higher in our line, we pressured a little bit higher. I think after we found the first goal, the guys were able to dominate in possession."
Vancouver (8-9-6) is coming off a second straight draw -- 2-2 against Toronto -- and sits in seventh place in the Western Conference, just one spot below the playoff cut line. But the Whitecaps have their work cut out of them, largely because of their porous defense.
Vancouver, which along with Minnesota United has allowed a conference-worst 46 goals, trails sixth-place Real Salt Lake by four points for the final playoff spot.
The Whitecaps have a minus-10 goal differential, worse than Salt Lake's minus-7 and eighth-place Seattle's minus-1. The Sounders are one point beyond Vancouver in the standings.
Beyond the Cascadia Cup implications -- Vancouver has no points; Portland and Seattle each have three -- Saturday's game is crucial to the Whitecaps' MLS hopes.
"We have a great game on Saturday against a really good team. I'm sure we'll be the underdog again. They're in good form at the moment," Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson told the Vancouver Sun. "We need freshness and energy against a team that hasn't lost in 15 games."
Portland has won four of the past five meetings.