As you may remember, the Portland Timbers got their swagger back earlier this week. A 5-2 win will help you do that, even if the team you’re playing is a struggling one like the LA Galaxy. Portland dominated for almost the full 90 minutes on Wednesday, and that was exactly what they needed after a handful of disappointing results previously.
If there’s anything the past couple weeks have shown, it’s that momentum is something that can be lost as easily as its gained in Major League Soccer. One moment you’re on top of the world after winning five in a row, and the next you’re trying to figure out how to make up for four dropped points over those two games. Right now, Portland has the momentum, and now their goal is to figure out how to capitalize on that as the playoffs loom.
“In MLS, it’s all about momentum and making sure that you climb to the top of the momentum at the right time,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “It is very important for us to try to finish very strong in these three matches, looking one game at a time, and focus entirely on that and focus on the next after.”
There’s a lot of good for Portland to build on in these final three matches, one of those positives being that the Timbers know they’re already in the playoffs. They clinched that officially on Wednesday with the victory. Even with the announcement that the playoffs would be determined by points per game, they’re still third in the Western Conference.
The next thing that they have going for them right now is confidence. All the Timbers players who spoke after the Galaxy victory talked about how the results were finally indicative of how they’ve actually been playing. Jaroslaw Niezgoda said he always expected the team to be in the playoffs, and Yimmi Chara said the team is playing with confidence right now. That momentum that Savarese mentioned earlier is currently on their side, and they know it.
“You can see it in games like this last game where we’re controlling possession, we’re controlling the game at home, which was a big concern when we came back from Orlando,” Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson said. “It’s good that we’re building this and doing it the right way before playoffs.”
But as Savarese, Williamson, and just about everyone on the Timbers have said, this is something that you can only take one game at a time. All the Timbers are well aware that they’re not too far off of overtaking Sporting Kansas City — and a few good results for Portland and the occasional slip up from SKC, and maybe even the Seattle Sounders, could mean at least the second seed in the playoffs. But they can’t focus at the moment on those teams; all they can do is focus on Vancouver.
So what changes going into this match against the Whitecaps? Not much at all. Savarese noted that when you have a good thing going you don’t try to tweak it too much. You can’t fix what isn’t broken. For this match against the Whitecaps, it’ll be about building on what the offense did against the Galaxy and controlling the match as much as possible.
“Now we have to make sure that we stay focused on that; make sure that we continue to manage that and try to make sure that we create opportunities,” Savarese said. “If we are able to secure the way we did against the Galaxy, that’s going to be very positive.”
The Timbers have momentum on their side now. Can they make the most of it?