2013 MLS Cup Playoffs Quotes & Notes | Portland Timbers 0, Real Salt Lake 1 - Nov. 24, 2013

Porter: "We’re not going away. This is just the beginning. We’ll be back"
 

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MLS Cup Playoffs | Quotes: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake 

Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
Opening remarks:
“First of all, I’d like to congratulate Real Salt Lake for moving on to MLS Cup. They’re a great team, great coaching staff, and they deserve everything they get. They were great in the series and as much as we fought them tooth-and-nail, they deserved to move on. So, we wish them all the best.”

“My team, I thought they deserved more, in all honesty. Obviously, this is the first time we’ve been in this position, and there’s a reason a team like Salt Lake moved on to win the series. You see teams like Salt Lake. You see teams like Kansas City. You see teams like Houston and the LA Galaxys of the world, and there’s a reason they continue to be in this position year after year. It’s because they’re experienced collectively and they have players that have been in that situation. What I would say about our group is that we didn’t look out of place. I think that’s remarkable for our team, really 10 months into this, to be in the position we’re in. In saying that, there are some things we’ll learn from the series and when we’re back – and we will be back – we’ll do better. You look at Salt Lake and you look at the last time they won it, and you look at how long it took them to get back…it takes time. There’s definitely a progression when you’re knocking on the door. This was our first time knocking on the door and unfortunately we didn’t open the door. I can’t fault my guys’ effort. I’m proud of every last one of them. You could see how much it meant to them today. They fought every single second for 94 minutes. They gave everything they had and left it all on the field. I thought we played well enough to win the game today. If that first goal stands, I think the game is different, but it didn’t play out that way. I would say, we probably didn’t finish well enough to move on in the series. We had a lot of chances. I thought we dominated the game in terms of performance – that was clear. Again, Salt Lake knew what they needed to do, and they did it. I thought their center backs were exceptional in the box tonight. We threw everything at them, and I thought they managed the box brilliantly. You have to take your hats off to their team. You could see their maturity, you could see their experience. They did what they needed to. It wasn’t any fault to our guys. I thought we came out and played, in terms of energy, some of the best stuff of the year and, in terms of control, some of the best stuff of the year. We didn’t finish well enough to move on in the series, but I thought we certainly performed well enough to win tonight, and for whatever reason it didn’t fall that way.”

“I look back on that first goal that was disallowed – and I’m not making excuses and I’m not going to blame the ref, it would be very easy for me to do that and I didn’t think it was his best day today if I’m being honest – but that’s not the reason we lost the game, but I think that was a factor. If you watch the play again, I’m left scratching my head at what he saw on that play.”

“As far as reflection on the season, it’s a little bit difficult at this point with the wounds still fresh to rationalize. It was absolutely remarkable what these players did this year in 10 months. Finishing top three in the league in the regular season after 34 games after being 17th, finishing first in the West, finishing top three in goals scored, top three in goals against, finishing top four in the Open Cup and top four in the MLS Cup [Playoffs]. This team has set a standard in a short amount of time and it’s only the beginning, we’re going to be back there’s no doubt about it. We’re not getting worse, we’re going to get better. We’re going to keep doing what we did this year, hopefully better. Hopefully, when we’re in this position next year, we’ll be the ones dancing on that field going to MLS Cup. Our goal is to raise trophies, first and foremost. This was a great year, but in the end we didn’t raise a trophy. So we’re going to keep pushing for that. We look forward to the future and I want to thank everyone for their support.” 

On how two disallowed goals and having two players leave via injury affected the team:
“It was tough. If we get that first goal, the whole game is different. But we didn’t get the first goal and I think it [RSL’s goal] was their second shot of the game, 30 minutes in when we’re completely on top of them. It was probably our best first 30 minutes all year. You could see how hungry they were. You could see how much it meant to them. You could see they were up for it. We didn’t look like a team that hadn’t been in that position. We didn’t look like a team that was shy. We looked like a team that was brave. We looked like a team that had the right mentality. We looked like a team that believed that we could do it and we played that way. Unfortunately, I think we deserved better. It was a long-range shot, rebound, goal and that was a tough one. I think that was deflating, the way that first half played out. Second half, I thought we threw everything at them, we had some looks, but didn’t finish well enough. You have to credit Real Salt Lake. I thought they managed the second half very well. They sat, they absorbed, cut out crosses, [Nick] Rimando cut out balls. They did what they needed to, which is what good teams do. They find a way to win, find a way to get through. In tournament football, it’s about doing what you need to do to get through.”

On what needs to happen during the offseason to take the next step and reach MLS Cup:
“I think if we took the same team just like it is, we would be in that position next year like we were this year. This series could’ve gone differently. If we played it again it could go differently. There are some things that we will do to try to enhance the group and to get better. The best thing you can do is just keep a lot of the same pieces, keep that continuity, and keep that experience within the locker room as much the same the same as you can. You see that in winning teams. Houston, Salt Lake, they keep pretty much the same group over and over again. Kansas City, etc., there’s a formula they follow and I’ve studied this for many years and this is what we will do, as well. We will, like always, look to get better. We don’t need to get a ton better. I think just through experience we will be better next season.”

Reflecting on the passion of the Portland fan base:
“I feel like I’m the luckiest coach alive to have the fans that I have here. To be able to coach a group of guys in a stadium like that and a community like this that cares as much as they care, I count my blessings every day. I can’t thank the fans and supporters enough and that’s a big reason why we were the best team in the league this year at home, because of them. That will continue to be a huge advantage for us, and I’m just sorry that weren’t able to get it done and pull it off today for them. I do think that we, hopefully, ignited them and gave them a memorable year and season and something to look forward to in the future. Like I said, we’re not going away. This is just the beginning. We’ll be back.”

On the decision to start Frederic Piquionne:
“I thought he was tremendous. When he had to come off, it affected us a little bit. Maxi [Urruti] did a good job, but when Piquionne was in there, he was a handful. The reason we wanted to play him was because we knew he would be a handful in the air. I thought we were very effective, especially in those first 30 minutes, playing direct and running off him, playing off second balls and when we were able to get around them wide and find service in the box, we were much more dangerous with him in the game. That was unfortunate. Unfortunate losing Rodney [Wallace] as well, so we lose two starters in the first half through injuries, and in the end that didn’t help the situation.”

On what the experience means as a coach:
“It’s done a lot for me. There were a lot of adjustments I made throughout the year, a lot of things I stuck with as well. Through experience, you gain wisdom and with wisdom, you get better. I’m a reflective person, not just at the end of the year, but week to week. That’s the thing with this group, we got better throughout. We always looked at our group and made changes when we needed to. I thought the moves we made going into this game worked and the way we played [Diego] Valeri and [Darlington] Nagbe tonight was a good tweak and unlocked Salt Lake at times and allowed us to do some things that we didn’t do in the last leg. Piquionne in the game allowed us to do some things we couldn’t do in the last game. It was a pretty dominant performance tonight, but we need to finish better. That’s the name of the game; you have to finish your chances. You hope you put your team together to be in a position to get chances, but then you’ve got to finish. We played well enough to win. We didn’t finish well enough to dig ourselves out of a two-goal hole.”

Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury
On the season overall:
“I think when you look back 10 months ago, we started with a new coach, half the guys in this locker room weren’t here before, you didn’t really know what to expect, but you could see early on that there was the makings of something special. I think the culture now in this organization, in this locker room, in the coaching staff, is a group of winners. We set the standard high for the next few years, and we hope to be the team raising the trophy next year.”

On whether Real Salt Lake’s goal changed the team’s mentality at halftime:
“Obviously, not ideal for them to score and be down three, but the mindset going in was that we wanted to score three so it really didn’t change much at halftime. I think once you got into the 60th, 70th minute we had to push it more, kind of open ourselves up a little bit. At the end of the day, you can’t fault the effort that everybody put in, it was just one of those nights where it wasn’t going for us.”

On the two goals that were taken away:
“It’s very frustrating. It’s one of those things, we pressed just like we always do, it wasn’t like we did anything out of the ordinary. You would think one of those would probably stand, but at the end of the day, it didn’t. Unfortunately, they got one and we couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Timbers defender Michael Harrington
On the team’s turnaround this season:
“We’re definitely proud of what we were able to accomplish this year. We’re disappointed tonight because we feel like we could have gone further, I thought we had the quality to go further, but it’s been a great season. It’s great to be a part of this club. I’m excited to see where we could go in the years ahead.”

On the fan’s chants of P-T-F-C as time expired:
“That was amazing. It just makes you proud to be part of something like that. Not everybody gets to be part of something like that in their life. It makes me proud. It’s just fantastic to be supported in that way, because that’s rare. Even all over the world, I think that’s rare, so it was a lift to us. We’re disappointed, but that’s a light in the darkness there.”

Timbers midfielder Will Johnson
On his thoughts on the season overall:
“It’s early to try and reflect on the whole season. Obviously, you go farther than the club’s ever gone before, that’s a positive. We’re competitive, we got a good group of guys together, but the thing right now is it’s just a tough feeling, to get so close, come so far, but come up short; I don’t have a great answer for that one. There’s a lot of good things that have gone on this year, but the only thing we feel right now is disappointment and pain.”

On the home crowd at the end:
“It’s amazing. You certainly expect it from them. They’re with us through thick and thin. They’ve been with us now for, a lot of the guys, for three years. It’s been pretty awesome. It just gives you chills. It’s why we try so hard. We try too hard at times to the point where we get in our own way, but they’re amazing, that’s it.”

On the change of culture within the team this season:
“It’s a winning culture, no doubt about it. That’s one of the things we talked about afterwards, is what we’re proud of. We’re no longer the Portland Timbers that everybody beats up on. We’re starting to become an elite team in this league. We have to do it consistently. We’ll find ourselves in championship games year after year if we continue to have that hunger and desire. For me, this just makes us hungrier, if that’s possible. It’s a good group of guys. We’re competitive. This fan base deserves a competitive team, a team that fights and gives everything. Our effort was fantastic tonight, we just needed better quality.”

Real Salt Lake Quotes

Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis
On handling the early pressure at the beginning of the game:
“Yeah, our objective was to try to reverse things a little bit. Put them under some pressure, but it’s hard to when they were throwing both their outside backs forward and playing us direct as they were. I thought that they did a really good job of gaining the momentum early in the match. I thought they did a really good job of creating some chances, they were dangerous on dead balls, and put us under. So, certainly had me nervous for long stretches of that first half, but the goal that we scored was so critical.”

On how the first goal affected the rest of the match:
“You know, they say in soccer, and I believe it’s true, especially in our league, that the first goal matters so much in games. I think the percentage for the team that wins games that scores the first goal is off the charts, really, in our league. And then you enter a match like this where you’re already up two, and I think that first goal becomes ten times as important. If Portland scores the first goal, they’ve got all the momentum, they’re on their home field, they’ve got their fans behind them. I think that we would’ve been in a really, really tough place. If we score the first goal, now it’s 3-0, and now they get a little desperate, some heads are hanging, and there’s some frustration involved. Great that we got the goal, probably wasn’t the prettiest one we’ve ever scored, but we’ll take it, and I thought we handled the match pretty well from there.”

How it feels to be back in the MLS Cup after four years: 
“I think for me, the most rewarding thing is not about getting back to the MLS Cup. The most rewarding thing is that finally this group has won a trophy. Another trophy. Frankly, in my honest opinion, and I’m sure it’s not everybody’s – this team deserves more trophies than they have. They’ve put themselves in a position to win so many times, and it’s just been unfortunate not to. So I think that this is a very deserved trophy. Both, for what we have done over the regular season and certainly in the playoffs, but more so for what we’ve done now for five years in a row.”

Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman
Overall thoughts on the match: 
“They’re a tough team. They play great at home, especially, and they’ve done well on the road, as well. They had a great season, and they deserved it. They’re a great team. We knew it was going to be tough, and it was going to take a lot of focus, effort. I think when we scored that goal, if we were able to get to halftime at three goals up, that it was going to be really tough for them. So I think the focus was there. We were able to really find the holes, find space, because they were pushing forward, and that’s the way the game was. Fortunately, we didn’t give up a goal, and that helps as well.”

If absorbing the initial attack and energy and flipping it was part of the game plan: 
“Well, I think it’s just natural, the way the game is going to go, being up two goals, them at home. They’re feeling the crowd’s presence and kind of pushing them forward. So I think that’s just the way the game was going to be, and you’re going to have to defend and defend. They bring four, five guys. They attack with that many players, so we knew if we’re able to win it, and complete a pass after that, then we’re going to have quite a bit of space to get after them.”

On returning to the MLS Cup after four years:
“It feels great. I think anytime when you get in the playoffs, you have a legitimate shot. We’ve just kept at it, kept at it, and I think we learned from the past, losing some games, we learned from it. We had chances where we had to come together, or just falter, and we came together, and here we are.”

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando
On getting to the MLS Cup: 
“It feels great. We wanted to come here and win. We didn’t want to come here and drop back and lose 1-0. We wanted to come in here and get a result. We’ve done it before, in the past, and the guys in this locker room have the confidence to go in there and do that. As a result, I think we deserve to be in the Cup. We fought hard, not just this game, but the first leg against Los Angeles. The commitment from all these guys, that they put in, has been paying off, and it feels great. We’re going to enjoy tonight, but we know we have a tough, tough task at hand playing against Kansas City.”

On the play of center backs Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers in the postseason: 
“Fantastic. Getting [Schuler] back was huge for us, you know. We had a lot of different pairings during the season. And we missed him, he got injured, and having him back has been huge. He’s just a big presence pack there. Wins a lot of head balls for us. But also he talks. He’s a big organizer, and him and Nat together are very good, and I’m happy he’s back.”

On the team’s play after scoring the opening goal:
“We knew we were going to have to absorb some pressure from them. They were going to come out flying, just like we did at home. They missed a great opportunity on a corner kick. We slowed the game down a little bit, but we knew we were going to get opportunities, and once we scored, I think the crowd calmed down a little bit. I think they were on their back studs a little bit when that happened, and it gave us the opportunity to play a little bit more the way we wanted to play.”

Notes:

  • The Timbers were the fifth club in MLS history since the league’s inaugural season in 1996 to advance to the conference championship in their MLS Cup Playoffs debut, and the first club to do so since Real Salt Lake in 2008.
     
  • Portland’s 2013 campaign stretched across 266 days from the start of the regular season on March 3 to Sunday’s Leg 2 of the Western Conference Championship.
     
  • The Timbers and Real Salt Lake met for a sixth time this season across all competitions – three during the regular season, two in the MLS Cup Playoffs and also met in the U.S. Open Cup.
     
  • The Timbers finished their run in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs having scored seven goals, currently tied for second-most among clubs in the postseason. Only the Houston Dynamo had more with eight and played one more match than the Timbers.
     
  • The Timbers set club MLS Cup Playoff marks in shots (18) and corner kicks (9) in Leg 2 of the Western Conference Championship against Real Salt Lake. 
     
  • Portland’s 10 shots in the second half on Sunday is tied for the second-most shots in a second half during the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
     
  • The combined 12 corner kicks are tied for the second-most by both teams in a 2013 MLS Cup Playoff match.
     
  • The Timbers’ nine corner kicks against Real Salt Lake are tied for fifth-most in a match during the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
     
  • The Timbers defense held Real Salt Lake to seven shots, the fewest by a winning club in a single game during the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. Real Salt Lake attempted just one shot over the final 61 minutes of the matches.
     
  • Robbie Findley’s go-ahead goal in the 29th minute marked the first time since July 13 (vs. LA Galaxy) that the Timbers had allowed the opening goal in a match at JELD-WEN Field. It was also the first time in four MLS Cup Playoff games in which the Timbers allowed the first goal of the match.
     
  • Sunday’s match also marked the first time the Timbers entered halftime trailing in a match at home since March 9 (vs. Montreal Impact).
     
  • Timbers were forced to make two substitutions in the first half due to injuries to Frederic Piquionne and Rodney Wallace.
     
  • Portland, which ranked among Western Conference leaders with 29 goals scored at home during the regular season, was held scoreless for just the third time at JELD-WEN Field in 2013 across all competitions (23 games).