The boys in the green and gold lined up for the first time in 2020 on Saturday in the sunshine of Costa Rica. Playing (and winning) 2 games of a 3 game stretch, there’s plenty to talk about. First up was Deportivo Saprissa, the traditional favorites of Costa Rica’s Liga FPD and former team of Marvin Loría and Julio Cascante.
As is common for preseason competition, Coach Gio went with two different lineups in either half. There might be a few areas for disagreement but the starting lineup was just that: a starting lineup. In the 9th minute Valeri put us on top with a typically class free kick from just on top of the box. Superb technique saw him beat the wall form close proximity with plenty of pace.
The partnership in the center of defense of Cascante and new signing Dario Zuparic was solid and—side note—Zuparic is already looking like the man to anchor the backline this season. Fair to say it’s early but his experience in Europe and ball-playing ability could brand him an elite MLS defender in 2020.
After the shift change at halftime, the home side pulled a goal back in the 65th minute but the Timbers responded 12 minutes later in the 77th with a goal from T2 player and former Michigan State standout Ken Krolicki. It was a great goal. Dairon Asprilla anticipated a Saprissa pass on the right side of the field deep within the Timbers own half. Then after beating two players down the flank with pure grit, squared the ball for academy youngster Tega Ikoba, who narrowly overran the pass. Just behind him inside the box was Tomás Conechny who served a delightful flick to the arriving Krolicki who took a touch and finished low to the keeper’s left.
In the second game of the trip against Municipal Grecia there were more attacking talking points. New signing Felipe Mora put us ahead in the 17th minute off a quality cross from Sebastián Blanco at the far post. Yet another South American connection could be in the making. The hosts leveled things in the 24th minute and the deadlock would remain until the second half.
Eryk Williamson would be the man to put the game to bed. Marcus Epps, a T2 player with MLS experience with the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union, was fed down the right side before centering for Williamson near the top of the box who smashed home a clean strike into the roof of the net. Another T2 player was responsible for the second of Williamson’s goal. Ryan Sierakowski was played through on goal and squared up as if he were going to try to beat the keeper himself before sliding the ball across the goalmouth for Williamson to tap in. A quite clever piece of play from Sierakowski, another former Michigan State standout.
Solid displays from both the veterans and the youngsters should give Savarese and his staff plenty to mull over when it comes to squad selection. When Savarese decided to put his faith in Jeremy Ebobisse at the start of the 2019 season he knew what he was doing. Not long after, Ebobisse was a fully capped international player. It wouldn’t shock any of us to see him work more magic with a Marvin Loría or Eryk Williamson.
In the third and final game of the camp the Timbers will face C.S. Herediano on Sunday. Then, on Sunday February 16th, the Vancouver Whitecaps will visit Providence Park in the first of three preseason home games for the Timbers before the MLS gets underway on March 1st!