Savarese on his team heading to LA: "Everybody’s fighting to get a starting position"

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Timbers left back Vytas will miss Sunday’s Major League Soccer season opener, while midfielder Diego Chara is a possibility to make Giovanni Savarese’s gameday squad on Sunday night against the LA Galaxy.

Ahead of his full debut as Timbers head coach, Savarese announced those updates on Wednesday afternoon, also saying goalkeeper Jeff Attinella is unlikely to feature at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

“Jeff is not ready yet, as well as Vytas,” Savarese confirmed. “They both have a strain, one in the quadriceps [Attinella], the other in the hamstring [Vytas].”

Neither Vytas nor Attinella have practiced with the first team this week. Vytas left Saturday’s preseason game against Sporting Kansas City with a hamstring injury and has worked out away from the team all week. Attinella, managing a quad strain over the last two weeks, has been unable to practice with the team since their return from Arizona. Jake Gleeson, competing with Attinella for the No. 1’s gloves, will likely start in goal.

“[Attinella and Vytas] are progressing very, very well,” Savarese said, “so soon, they’ll be training fully again.”

Those impending absences are balanced by the progress of Chara, who continues to build back to full strength after suffering a broken metatarsal in November. Having just returned to full training over the last two weeks, Chara is still progressing toward his starting form, and against the Galaxy, he could still play a part.

“Chara will be travelling with us to LA,” Savarese revealed “Then we’ll decide, at the end, what role he will play that day. He’s definitely travelling with the team.”

The Timbers’ other lineup questions are traditional positional battles, not health concerns, the most competitive of which may be at right wing. For much of preseason, Dairon Asprilla was getting the first team minutes at the position, but on Saturday against Sporting, offseason signing Andy Polo was in the starting XI.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Savarese was unwilling to tip his hand, instead focusing on the positional battles the team’s new depth has created across his formation.

“There have been a lot of battles, not only that battle,” Savarese said, when asked about his right-wing position.

“All across the team, I think every position has two players. Everybody’s fighting to get a starting position, and they’re doing a very good job – everyone, to put a claim in. It’s more difficult for me, which is what you want to see and have. I would say all across the whole team, there’s good competition.”

Another lineup question also concerns Samuel Armenteros, whose four goals in three preseason games earned him the Golden Boot trophy at the Mobile Mini Sun Cup. While Fanendo Adi is still expected to start at striker on Sunday, Savarese is looking forward to getting his new striker time, potentially pairing him with Adi on top of a recently-unveiled 4-3-1-2 formation.

“We can play them together,” Savarese said, when asked about the new formation, “or they can play one or the other. Having a chance to have two quality players be different gives you that opportunity.”

It’s all part of a normal matchday’s decisions for an MLS boss, but for Savarese these set of decisions come within a unique context. You only make your MLS coaching debut once, making Sunday’s match special for the new Timber’s boss …

… even if he didn’t want the attention turned to himself.

“It’s been a journey, to get to this point,” he said. “I’m excited about the reality, and that’s about the players, and it’s about the club. That’s the most important part.”