With the conclusion of Sunday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Portland Timbers are done with their compacted schedule of five games in 14 days. And truthfully, it couldn’t have ended much better for them.
The Timbers beat the Whitecaps 1-0 on Sunday for their third win and second clean sheet in a row. During this past five-match stretch, the Timbers have gone 3-1-1 (W-L-D), with three of those five matches coming on the road. (Well, technically four since Sunday’s match was a “road” match for Portland.) And with their latest win, they continue a positive trend of earning three points and staying solid defensively.
“It was very important to continue the same path of winning these matches,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “Overall a very important win for us and three points that continue to make us stay on the same path.”
It’s a good path to be on, especially after the difficulties the defense faced earlier in the restart. Too often the Timbers would concede goals at inopportune times, turning matches from promising victories to either disappointing draws or losses. Now that they’ve seem to found the mojo they had in Orlando, it’s given them some more security in what their team is doing.
“It allows you to build confidence,” Savarese said. “It allows you to make sure that you feel that you’re working in the right direction. It’s an example that when you all are in tune with each other and work together you can achieve the goal that you’re looking for in regard to not allowing goals against.”
Even after a solid night defensively, the Timbers feel there’s room for improvement. Despite going scoreless, Vancouver created opportunities for themselves on Sunday. Their high press forced Portland into bad turnovers that resulted in easy shots at the goal. Luckily for Portland, none of those opportunities were converted, but they’re well aware that one goal changes the feelings surrounding the entire match.
“We know that ... we can even do much better than what we did tonight,” said Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala, who started in his first match since suffering a leg injury on September 6. “When we come on the field, we are trying to have the best performance possible and especially defensively because we know that with the quality we have in front, we’re going to create chances.”
Mabiala is right about the offense: While they only scored one goal, and it wasn’t perfect throughout the match on Sunday, Portland has more than enough players to generate a potent offensive attack. Last night the score came from Felipe Mora, but on any other night it could come from any one of Diego Valeri, Jeremy Ebobisse, Yimmi Chara, or Jaroslaw Niezgoda. Personally for Mora, he feels he’s grown increasingly more comfortable as the season has progressed.
“I believe as the games go by, I gain more knowledge about the league,” Mora said through a translator. “It’s been a very difficult year and everything that the league has done has helped me to adapt and I think my teammates, for the most part, they’ve been fundamental for me to adapt a lot better and for me to score these goals. So I really hope that I can continue achieving these things.”
It’s probably safe to say that the rest of the team hopes so, too. It helps that they’ll have almost a full week to rest before they face off against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Savarese is happy that his team can finally take some time to do more than just prepare for whatever match is around the corner.
“Finally we have a week that is a normal week in which we can work,” Savarese said. “We can be able to recoup some of the players ... and get everybody back to their best form in order to decide the lineup next week.”
It was a great day and an overall successful past two weeks for Portland. But while it doesn’t take away from what they’ve done, they still know their work isn’t finished.
“Our standard, our desire is to always improve, is always to be a strong team and to make sure that we grow and evolve in so many areas to always be a better team,” Savarese said. “But that doesn’t take away the fact the guys did a tremendous job today.”