PORTLAND — With league-leading FC Dallas visiting and ESPN's television cameras showing it, Saturday's contest at Jeld-Wen Field isn't a run-of-the-mill match for the Portland Timbers.
"There's definitely a big-game feel," Jack Jewsbury said, describing the mood of his Timbers' teammates. "It's been (building) up to this game the past week. We realize the importance of it. We just want to go out and play our style of soccer."
A win would move Portland within two points of Dallas atop the Western Conference standings. A loss, and the Timbers fall eight points off the pace.
But just how significant is it?
A win might help convince doubters that the Timbers are a legitimate Major League Soccer contender. Portland's current string of 12 league matches without a loss includes seven draws. Dallas, Real Salt Lake, Seattle and Los Angeles all have more league wins than the Timbers' five victories.
Portland coach Caleb Porter described his team as focused but relaxed after Friday's training session, and noted that the 15th game of the MLS schedule is not a make-or-break moment.
"I don't know that it's any more important than any game you play, but we do have the opportunity to make up ground and close the gap between them and us," Porter said.
"It wouldn't be the end of the world if we lost, and it certainly wouldn't make our season if we won, because we've got another game around the corner."
Actually, the Timbers have several significant games around the corner. Next Wednesday they face the Galaxy in Los Angeles, then they host Colorado June 23 before traveling to Dallas for a win-to-advance game in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Still, it is difficult to downplay the opportunity Saturday's match provides. Jewsbury said it is the biggest match of the season — so far.
"We've got our sights set on being on top of the standings, and to get there you've got to beat the teams on top," he said.