Last week was a long one for the Portland Timbers. They had three games over the course of six days, all of them on the road; they couldn’t practice outside for most of the week because of the poor air quality; and they had to deal with their first week without Sebastian Blanco. One thing is certain: They’re glad to be back home.
“We have been travelling a lot,” Savarese said. “We haven’t had too much time to be able to do practices. We went through a very difficult time last week with all the wildfires, and this week is going to be perfect for us to have the opportunity to — even though we play in still the same amount of matches — be at home, no travel, the guys are with their families. We’ve been able to work a little bit more today in some of the areas that we want to improve.”
Like Savarese said, it’s still a match-heavy week for Portland, even if they’re playing at home. The Timbers host the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday and the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday. After the Whitecaps match, that’ll make it five matches in 14 days for the club. That’s a lot of soccer played all right in a row.
There’s some good news in there, though. First, they ended last week on a high note with their 6-1 domination of the Earthquakes. Second, Savarese confirmed on Monday that Larrys Mabiala will be available for the match against the Sounders. The more players available with such a condensed schedule, the better.
“There’s not a result against San Jose in the way we went about the second match if we didn’t rest certain players,” Savarese said. “Players like (Diego) Valeri and others benefited from the rest they had the previous match...it’s good to have players coming back like Mabiala and this is very important for us.”
The next match will be an important test for Portland. They’ve split the regular season matchups with the Sounders 1-1 up to this point, with both teams’ wins coming on the road. When asked about whether the two teams playing each other so often this season made the rivalry feel less contentious, Jeremy Ebobisse made it clear that getting wins against rivals at home is just as important as ever.
“It really doesn’t because, unless you’re winning every single time, there’s always something left to be desired,” Ebobisse said. “And last time they came into Providence Park they beat us 3-0, and it started a run of games that I think if we all look back on we know we should have done better on. They took a little bit of pride out of us after a successful summer, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I know the rest of our teammates.”
The last time these two teams clashed, it was a bittersweet affair for Portland. They got a solid 2-1 victory, but lost Sebastian Blanco to an ACL tear. With Blanco getting injured so early in the game, Portland was forced to adapt, and they showed that there’s a road map to surviving without Blanco. But while that was a great road win, they haven’t forgotten the 3-0 loss in Providence Park that Ebobisse mentioned. The Timbers have always been firm believers that getting three points at home has to be almost automatic, and that remains the case on Wednesday.
“It’s something that we’re not happy with, the fact that we haven’t been able to win in the last two matches at home against them,” Savarese said. “So we want to make sure that in this one we not only get three points, but that we put (together) a very good performance.”
It was a long week on the road for the Timbers, and the schedule isn’t necessarily getting easier. But now they have the luxury of being back in Rose City, and now they just need to defend their turf.
“We want to make sure we make Providence Park a fortress again,” Savarese said. “It’s something that we’re working, we’re talking and mentally preparing to do so.”