While the Portland Timbers hope to bounce back from consecutive road losses and improve their playoff position, Toronto FC is already looking ahead to next season.
On the heels of an organizational shakeup, Toronto faces a tough challenge trying to end its four-match winless stretch Friday night against a Timbers club that has not lost at home in almost six months.
In the franchise's seventh season, Toronto FC (4-12-10) is tied for the second-fewest points in MLS and likely won't earn its first-ever playoff appearance. This latest disappointing season resulted in president and general manager Kevin Payne getting fired Thursday after less than a year on the job.
"I have a great deal of respect for Kevin and thank him for his contributions with TFC, but he and I have mutually agreed that the team will be moving in a different direction as we prepare for the 2014 season," Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of operating group Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, told the club's official website.
Despite the team's poor play, Leiweke plans to keep coach Ryan Nelsen.
"They have to respect our decision and our support of Ryan Nelsen," he said. "That is the only restriction we will have on the general manager position."
Toronto has been held to three goals during its current 0-2-2 skid but is coming off a second consecutive draw, 1-1 against New England last Friday as Andrew Wiedeman scored the tying goal late in the first half. Captain Steven Caldwell appeared to win it in the 88th minute when his header off a free kick slipped inside the far post, but it was ruled he committed a foul on the play.
Toronto has totaled two goals in its last six road games and now has to visit Portland (9-5-12), which didn't allow one goal through the first six matches of its current 7-0-3 streak at home in league play.
The Timbers, 0-1-2 all-time versus Toronto, haven't lost at Jeld-Wen Field since falling 2-1 to Montreal on March 9 for their lone home defeat.
With 39 points, Portland is tied with fourth-place Colorado in the Western Conference but sits in the fifth and final playoff spot with one less victory than the Rapids. The Timbers can use a win after being outscored 5-2 in consecutive road losses to Seattle and Real Salt Lake.
"We're all in this together, we all want to win," captain and Toronto native Will Johnson told the Timbers' official website. "Collectively, whether we're on the field, up in the stands or home on the couch, it's a group of guys that sticks together."
Though Johnson is back training after missing the last four MLS matches with a shoulder injury, it's uncertain if he will see any action Saturday.
Darlington Nagbe and Sal Zizzo each scored for the Timbers in last Friday's 4-2 loss at Salt Lake, where they played a man down for the entire second half after Ben Zemanski was sent off with a red card.
Nagbe has scored three times in his last six league matches. He and Zizzo also scored in last year's 2-2 draw with Toronto in the most recent meeting.
With defender Ryan Miller done for the season with a leg injury, Portland acquired midfielder-defender Brad Ring from San Jose on Thursday.