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Stumptown Footy’s MLS Cup training report

MLS: MLS Cup-Team Training Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Timbers had one final practice before tomorrow’s MLS Cup match against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium here in Atlanta. It was a relaxed, calm, yet joyful atmosphere. While the team has played here earlier this year, the focus of training was just getting re-accustomed to “the pitch, the stadium, and being able to feed off the surroundings,” as Gio Savarese put it.

However, that wasn’t to say it was complete relaxed. Gio focused on balance. “It’s not loose, but it’s calm. It’s emotionally balanced,” he said. “It’s with the understanding with what is at stake and what we expect out of this game. So there’s excitement and calmness.”

Gio Savarese
When asked about Diego Valeri’s comments on thinking about how much the Timbers have to win rather than how much they have to lose and how it’s helped them this season, Gio agreed. “That’s exact. That’s how the mentality is. We’re here to get the win, not just to survive. To give a good game and to be excited about it. The guys are confident in the plan that we have.”

Gio had no injuries to report. Everyone was available and ready to play. “Everyone is ready to contribute. If it’s outside, if it’s upstairs, if it’s on the field, if it’s coming from the bench. These guys are united and excited. We’re pretty healthy for this match.”

Gio addressed how much big this final was compared to other games: “We worked so hard to get to the final. So the emotions are higher, the focus is bigger. Everything becomes a bigger deal. [...] This final is going to be unique. It’s going to be a crowd record, never seen the past. The stadium and the acoustics of the stadium are going to make it more interesting.”

When asked about how many blue suits Gio brought to the game, he laughed. “I only brought two suits!” As to which one he will wear, he simply smiled and said, “We’ll see tomorrow.”

Zarek Valentin
This is Valentin’s first ever MLS Cup and he was enjoying the moment. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s definitely a show. A lot of stuff going on,” he said. He quickly changed tones and mentioned that the Timbers had a job here in Atlanta and “need to remind themselves [...] to take care business.”

He received some advice from one man with a giant beard: “He told me to enjoy it, but come ready to do what you got to do” echoing similar sentiments that Savarese had mentioned earlier. It came down to having balance. “It’s a balance of enjoying the moment but knowing we do have a job to perform. It’s not like going to the Super Bowl and being a part of the team and saying, ‘Hey, yeah, it’s fun, get all the perks, enjoy the moment, enjoy the press and media and we all win.’ We want to put out a good performance tomorrow.”

For Valentin, it wasn’t his first ever appearance in a final setting. He was also on the Akron Zips, who won a national championship in 2010. “The more big moments you can get, the more they prepare you as a player and have fun with it.”