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Rest vs. Rust: Timbers back in action against Galaxy after 10 days off

Can they keep rolling against a struggling LA Galaxy side?

SOCCER: SEP 02 MLS Los Angeles Galaxy at Portland Timbers

For many years, there have been arguments about the benefits of having a long time to rest in between games; specifically, about how much of an advantage it actually is to have so much time off. It’s the classic Rest vs. Rust debate: Does it benefit your team to have a lot of time off before a game, or does instead make you slow to get going when game time actually comes?

That’s something the Portland Timbers will find out tonight against the LA Galaxy. The Timbers haven’t played a match since their Sept. 27 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps thanks to the postponement of their match against the Colorado Rapids. That postponement has given them a rare 10-days rest, a unique and coveted gift during such a hectic schedule that also has its drawbacks.

“It gave us the chance to be able to recoup, to get guys in a good spot, recover and plan,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “But also, we lost a little bit of the momentum we had, so we need to make sure that we keep concentration; that we keep a high level and the intensity that we showed the previous few matches that we played before this past weekend.”

Portland has definitely been on a roll. They are unbeaten in their last four matches, including three wins in a row. They’ve only allowed two goals over that short stretch too, which is especially important considering the struggles the team had defensively earlier in the restart. Even after having their momentum halted by the postponement, Savarese isn’t a believer in the idea of too much rest.

“I think you always can utilize the rest period,” Savarese said. “What happens sometimes, when the rest time is longer, you tend to sometimes relax a little bit, and you’re not in that Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday, that generally continuously keeps you in ... As long as long as the mentality of the group is able to have a consistency and is able to bring the level up to the intensity that we need to show every game, having extra days to recover is a very good thing.”

Truthfully, the more rest they can get, the better. They have a long month ahead of them, with six matches in October alone. Five of those come over the span of just 15 days. With Sebastian Blanco out for the year and Andy Polo getting the call up to play internationally for Peru, they need to find players who can contribute when called upon. The Timbers feel they’re prepared to take on the challenge.

“We are prepared mentally,” striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda said. “We are ready to play every three days ... We have enough players to play and [be] competitive ... Every three games is no problem for us.”

While it’s always important to think ahead, right now the main focus is on how to earn points against the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy have not performed well as of late: They’ve lost four matches in a row and have fallen all the way back to last place in the Western Conference standings. But even as LA struggles to put together good results, the Timbers are not taking the task of beating them lightly.

“As always, every game in this league is always competitive, and this is not going to be any different,” Savarese said. “But we have the guys ready to be to perform.”

Tonight, we’ll get to see whether rest or rust wins out.