The defending champions could -- and likely should -- get leapfrogged by their biggest rivals as soon as Wednesday night in the race for the final Western Conference playoff berth.

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A few days ago, right until the 73rd minute of their match at Houston’s swampy BBVA Compass Stadium, the defending champion Portland Timbers must have felt optimistically about their chances of reaching the MLS Cup playoffs.

They were coming off the type of emphatic home win that has made their road woes even more puzzling this season. Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and company run rampant over most visitors to Providence Park — see: Portland 4, Seattle 2 back in late August. This is a team with as devastating of a top gear as anybody in this league.

They’re also almost comically inept at earning results on the road, however, and that may ultimately prove the undoing of their title defense before it even reaches the postseason.

The Timbers are still the only team in MLS without a road win this season, and their 3-1 defeat at Houston was compounded by Kansas City’s slightly surprising victory at San Jose later on Saturday night and Seattle’s more stunning upset of the Galaxy the following afternoon.

Portland’s loss to the Dynamo was characteristic. It went behind in the first half due to a boneheaded tackle by Alvas Powell in his own box, and though Valeri tied it up shortly after halftime, the Timbers never looked comfortable. Nerves frayed, and they finally blinked with 17 minutes to go.

Seventh-place Seattle still has to make up a three-point gap in the standings but has two games in hand. And with last-place Chicago visiting CenturyLink Field on Wednesday night, the Sounders could worm their way into the playoff spots by the middle of this week.

With two of Portland’s three remaining matches on the road — starting with a trip to the second-place Rapids currently fighting for a first-round bye — it suddenly looks the most likely odd team out in the Western Conference.

– Break up D.C. United! Suddenly explosive DCU certainly looked like a playoff team in its 4-1 rout over Orlando  City on Saturday at RFK Stadium.

D.C. is now one point clear of the red cutoff line with a game in hand on seventh-place New England. It isn’t often as stylish at it was against Orlando, but come September and October, this club has an uncanny way about doing just enough to get in.

– You OK there, Montreal? The Impact is now 0-3-1 in September following a 1-0 loss at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. Emotions boiled over afterward, when star forward Didier Drogba had to be pulled away by security during a confrontation with a pair of home fans.

It suddenly feels much longer than a year ago that the midseason acquisition of Drogba inspired a feel-good run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

– Four teams have already clinched playoff berths: The two New York clubs and Toronto in the Eastern Conference and Dallas in the West. Colorado, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Salt Lake could all join them in the rough-draft bracket shortly.

– Goal of the week: Steven Mendoza, New York City FC.

A similar range from which Osvaldo Alonso scored against the Galaxy, but without the referee interference in the buildup. This is such a good take and finish.

– Games to watch in the coming week: Columbus at D.C. (Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. PST on MLS Live), Philadelphia at New York Red Bulls (Saturday at 4 p.m. on MLS Live), Los Angeles at Dallas (Saturday at 6 p.m. on MLS Live), Portland at Colorado (Saturday at 6 p.m. on MLS Live).

Updated standings

Eastern Conference

Points Overall Home Away
# Club PTS PPG GP W L T GF GA GD W-L-T W-L-T
1 x – New York Red Bulls 48 1.55 31 13 9 9 53 40 13 11-2-2 2-7-7
2 x – Toronto FC 48 1.6 30 13 8 9 45 33 12 7-2-5 6-6-4
3 x – New York City FC 48 1.55 31 13 9 9 55 53 2 7-3-6 6-6-3
4 Philadelphia Union 42 1.35 31 11 11 9 50 48 2 8-3-4 3-8-5
5 Montreal Impact 38 1.27 30 9 10 11 43 47 -4 6-5-4 3-5-7
6 D.C. United 37 1.23 30 8 9 13 43 41 2 7-4-4 1-5-9
7 New England Revolution 36 1.16 31 9 13 9 37 51 -14 7-4-4 2-9-5
8 Orlando City SC 34 1.13 30 7 10 13 49 57 -8 5-3-7 2-7-6
9 Columbus Crew SC 32 1.1 29 7 11 11 42 46 -4 5-3-8 2-8-3
10 Chicago Fire 27 0.93 29 6 14 9 36 48 -12 5-3-7 1-11-2

Western Conference

Points Overall Home Away
# Club PTS PPG GP W L T GF GA GD W-L-T W-L-T
1 x – FC Dallas 53 1.71 31 15 8 8 47 39 8 10-1-4 5-7-4
2 Colorado Rapids 48 1.66 29 12 5 12 32 27 5 9-0-5 3-5-7
3 LA Galaxy 48 1.55 31 11 5 15 53 38 15 8-1-7 3-4-8
4 Real Salt Lake 45 1.45 31 12 10 9 42 42 0 8-1-7 4-9-2
5 Sporting Kansas City 43 1.39 31 12 12 7 39 38 1 9-4-3 3-8-4
6 Portland Timbers 41 1.32 31 11 12 8 46 48 -2 11-3-2 0-9-6
7 Seattle Sounders FC 38 1.31 29 11 13 5 38 39 -1 8-5-1 3-8-4
8 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 35 1.13 31 9 14 8 40 49 -9 5-4-6 4-10-2
9 San Jose Earthquakes 34 1.17 29 7 9 13 28 32 -4 6-3-6 1-6-7
10 Houston Dynamo 32 1.1 29 7 11 11 36 38 -2 5-2-7 2-9-4