It was an unusual weekend for both the Portland Timbers and Timbers fans. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Timbers did not have to play a match. After spending most of October playing game after game on only two to three days rest, they actually had a weekend to themselves.
“It felt good and it felt strange,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “It felt good because it was good to be able to watch all the games, to be able to be at home, to be able to practice and stay here in our facility. And so it felt really, really good. It felt strange because we haven’t had many weekends like that.”
There’s an aspect to that watching that’s very relaxing. Instead of having to constantly worry about the match they have to play, the Timbers can just see how other teams are doing. But it also provides an advantage to be able to watch other teams, learning more about their styles and preparing accordingly.
“Watching other teams and preparing for them,” said defender Marco Farfan about how his weekend was spent. “See what they like to do ... obviously we do scout with the coaches here, but just a lot of soccer and resting.”
It also involved a lot of rewatching of old games, even the one they played against the LA Galaxy earlier this month. The Timbers face off against the Galaxy tonight in their first match in six days. The last time these two teams faced off, it was a dominant 6-3 victory for Portland. It was the second time the club has scored six goals in a match this season. Before this year, Portland had never scored six times in a game during since they joined MLS.
Since that victory, it hasn’t been smooth sailing, however — especially in these past three matches. They’re 0-1-2 (W-L-D), with both of the ties happening because of equalizers in extra time. Those lost points proved to be costly, as Sporting KC and the Seattle Sounders have now jumped ahead of Portland in the Western Conference standings. Savarese admitted that it’s a disappointing feeling for both him and fans to drop points in such a fashion, especially because he feels the team has played decent soccer recently.
“There was so much good soccer that we’ve shown,” Savarese said, praising the performance of his players on both sides of the ball. “We did so many good things to evolve ... and that we conceded at the end, we feel that we lost in a tie. Four points in between two games is definitely something that we’re not happy about, like our fans should not be happy.”
The need to get out of this funk makes this match against the Galaxy important, but earning points tonight is crucial for another reason: A win or draw clinches Portland’s spot in the playoffs. If they lose, they could still clinch if the match between the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake ends in a draw, but that doesn’t exactly allow them to get back any momentum.
So the focus should be on earning points tonight. It’s definitely doable, considering the Galaxy currently sit at the bottom of the table in the West and Portland has already beaten them twice this season. But, as always, Savarese isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We need to be our top level,” Savarese said. “We need to be very sharp. We need be mentally prepared for this; that is going to be complicated to the level that I feel we need to manage every scenario and every situation in the best possible way.”