So last week wasn’t too great for the Portland Timbers. They dropped some points that would’ve been very nice to have and lost some of the momentum they had built up in their five game winning streak. For a week they had reverted to the old version of themselves, the team that would give up a goal or multiple goals at the worst possible time.
But what better way to get your swagger back than with a win over your rivals? That’s what Portland will try to do on Thursday when they face off against the Seattle Sounders. There’s more riding on this match than just Pacific Northwest bragging rights too; whoever wins this one will take over the top spot in the Western Conference Standings. Going into Seattle, head coach Giovanni Savarese is well aware of how much this match means.
“As soon as we step on the field, we know we’re playing Seattle and we want to beat them,” Savarese said. “We want to make our fans be proud wherever they are watching the match and we’re going to go out against our rivals to make sure that we try to get three points.”
If they want to do that, they’ll have to avoid the mistakes they made last week. They didn’t do anything particularly egregious against Real Salt Lake or LAFC. There’s actually a fair argument that for most of those matches they were the dominant team, especially in that LAFC draw. The offense has been great at creating opportunities and the defense hasn’t completely collapsed.
But what has happened was something similar to the beginning of the restart. In these small windows — whether it’s 15 minutes in the first half or the final minutes of extra time — they allow the most untimely goals. Diego Chara noted after the LAFC draw in particular that they played great for 89 minutes, but it only takes one minute to drop points.
“I think in that moment it was confusion,” Chara said. “In the last minute of the game we have a couple new players on the field, and in that moment I think we tried to figure out how to gather information and in that moment L.A. found a way to put the ball in the middle.”
Eliminating those moments will be crucial defensively, and offensively they should be good to go. Sure, they didn’t have any multi-goal matches last week, but they’ve still been able to create some real opportunities. Everyone on the attacking side of the ball seems to be stepping up. Against Seattle, it’ll just be a matter of finishing those opportunities. Savarese noted that that was something they had done well all year, and sometimes games like the one against LAFC just happen.
“You wish that we could capitalize a little bit more and sometimes the games become difficult,” Savarese said. “Sometime you have a game which things are that way which you do everything possible and sometimes ... things don’t work out for one reason or another. But I think overall, if we look at the season, the guys have done really well in finding goals that we need in order to make sure that we continue to go on the same path.”
There is a question of who will be out there trying to keep Portland on that path. The Timbers potentially will be without forward Jeremy Ebobisse, who had a couple hard falls during the LAFC draw on Sunday. Right now it is questionable whether or not he’ll play, and it’s a huge blow if he’s not available. Portland has a lot of attacking options, but Ebobisse has been one of the most consistent, scoring a team-leading eight goals this season.
Regardless of who’s out there, the stakes are high. Both teams need a win to secure the top spot and get out of their respective funks. It’s uncertain who will come out victorious tomorrow. All we know is that this trip up north means a lot more than just bragging rights.