Sure, there's plenty of soccer left to be played in 2022 for the Timbers and the Thorns.
But, in the arc of this season, the last full week of August shapes up as a defining one for both of Portland's clubs.
Of course, it's always an emotional affair when the Seattle Sounders visit Providence Park, as they are scheduled to do at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26.
The sense of desperation Sounders-Timbers clashes can create figures to be ramped up with both teams looking up at the playoff line. The Sounders have never missed the playoffs in their first 13 MLS seasons and don't want that streak to end. The Timbers have been far from playoff form, surrendering seven goals in their last two games. Late-season matches between the rivals have been known to propel one team or the other on to playoff success, so a winner on Friday, if there is one, will feel a lot better about their position.
In this case, the Timbers and Sounders are two of seven teams separated by six points between places five and 11 in Major League Soccer's Western Conference. Portland will have only six matches left after this showdown with Seattle. And, with fewer wins than the other playoff contenders, draws down the stretch aren't likely to lift the Timbers into the playoffs.
To get the win they need, the Timbers will have to play a lot better than they have in consecutive losses, most recently Sunday's ugly 4-1 setback at Sporting Kansas City. Portland also must buck a current trend in this storied rivalry, which has seen the road team win eight of the last 10 regular-season meetings.
As a bonus, a win or a draw over Seattle will clinch the Cascadia Cup trophy for the Timbers. It would be the fifth time since the supporters' trophy was first awarded in 2004 that it's landed in Portland.
It's a challenging week for the Thorns, who travel to Cary, North Carolina, on Wednesday, Aug. 24, to battle the Courage before playing host to the San Diego Wave on Saturday.
Coming on the heels of the Women's International Champions Cup, where the Thorns fell on penalties to Mexican champion CF Monterrey in the semifinals and to English champions Chelsea in the third-place match — the cross-country travel and two games in four days is far from ideal.
The trip to North Carolina was supposed to happen in May, but was rescheduled when the Courage made the final of the NWSL Challenge Cup.
Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson used 23 players in the two WICC matches. Star forward Sophia Smith played only a half hour over the two games as the Thorns scored only once over the two exhibitions. While that production was less than ideal, she was happy with the way her side performed in the 1-0 loss to Chelsea.
"There's no good time to have these tournaments. It's (Chelsea's) preseason. We're in the middle of our season," Wilkinson said. "But, it's such a wonderful event to really just showcase women's clubs across the world."
One player who was in midseason form was Lindsey Horan. The Thorns midfielder is playing on loan with European power Olympique Lyonnais, and carried the French club to the WICC title with three goals over two games in her return to Portland. Horan whipped home a free kick to spark a comeback against Chelsea in the tournament semifinals, then scored twice including a full-volley finish in Lyon's championship win over Monterrey.
Now, things get real again as the Thorns put an 11-game unbeaten run in league play to the test.
"The season's not always kind," Wilkinson said. "I think a lot of teams in this league have moments like this where you've got to be prepared to deal with travel and deal with two games very close together."
The Thorns enter the week as one of three teams with 28 points atop the NWSL standings. Portland's advantage is that San Diego and Houston each have played two more games. But, games in hand are only valuable if the Thorns earn results this week.