Timbers-Crew Preview

With Kei Kamara putting the finishing touches on an impressive campaign, the Columbus Crew continue to challenge for the Eastern Conference lead.

The league’s top goal scorer will try to add to his recent binge while leading the Crew to a season-high third consecutive win Saturday night against the slumping Portland Timbers.

Kamara scored his ninth goal in 10 games last Saturday to propel Columbus to a 2-1 victory at D.C. United. That result kept the Crew (13-9-8) within striking distance of the first-place New York Red Bulls in the East.

Kamara’s 21 goals are five shy of tying Stern John’s team mark from 1998 and one shy of putting him among the top 10 seasons in league history.

"This is the most important time of the season, and when we look at it, it’s not just about making the playoffs, but about being on top of the East, and the best way for us to do this is to win games," Kamara said.

The Crew will try to earn their next victory while extending Portland’s winless streak to a season-worst five. The Timbers (11-10-8) were shut out in back-to-back home games, including their 2-0 loss to the Red Bulls on Sunday.

Their 0-2-2 stretch has made their grip on a playoff spot tenuous. They lead San Jose by one point for the final spot in the West.

"There is tremendous opportunity for us going forward. We made things more difficult for ourselves right now but it’s still all there for us," defender Nat Borchers said.

The Timbers are also 0-2-2 in their last four against Columbus and played to a wild 3-all draw in the latest matchup in May 2014. The teams combined for three goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation, with Portland scoring twice.

The Timbers, 1-4-1 in their last six road games, have been shut out in each of their two trips to Columbus, losing both by 1-0 counts with the most recent in July 2013. The Timbers have not gone three consecutive matches without a goal since July 2012.

The Crew had a 4-0-3 unbeaten run at home end in their latest game there, a 3-0 defeat to FC Dallas on Sept. 6.

"I think we’re feeling confident right now," midfielder Wil Trapp said. "Two huge road wins against Eastern Conference opponents has put us in a good mood."

Kamara hasn’t scored in three lifetime games against Portland but hasn’t faced the Timbers since 2012. The Crew’s third-leading goal scorer, Federico Higuain, found the net twice in last season’s draw and assisted on Ethan Finlay’s tally in the 81st minute.