SAN SALVADOR – Freshly arrived in El Salvador following their MLS game against the Houston Dynamo, the Portland Timbers took to the pitch at Estadio Cuscatlán Monday to prepare for their Tuesday Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Group B game against the Salvadoran Primera League side C.D. Dragón (7pm PT, CONCACAF Facebook).
Though the game will be part of a busy three-game road trip between MLS and CCL play, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter says the team is focused on getting an important three points.
“We knew this week would be difficult and we’ve got to put the last league game behind us, shift gears, focus on the Champions League,” he said following the squad’s training session. “We know what we need to do: we need to win this game. If we win this game, it sets up the last game at home against Saprissa.”
Portland currently sits in second position in Group B but has a game in hand against both Dragón and first place Saprissa. Should the Timbers win Tuesday night, it will make the Oct. 19 match at Providence Park against Saprissa the deciding game with a win there seeing them through to the knockout stage. If the Timbers draw against Dragón, they will then need to beat Saprissa by at least two goals. The away-goal tiebreaker will go the Timbers' way if they win that match 2-0 or 3-1.
Porter and the Timbers, however, are keeping their eye on the immediate task at hand.
“It’s pretty simple: win the game [against Dragón],” he said. “Win the game and it sets up that last game where all we need to do is win and the goal differential doesn’t come into play.”
With the travel and a tight turnaround, Porter said that though the team may have a few changes, it will be a strong group he sends out to face the Salvadorans. Moreover, a win Tuesday night could also translate into added momentum when the team returns to MLS play Saturday on the road against the Colorado Rapids.
“If we can win on the road, even though it’s not the league, we can kind of build on that,” he said. “That’s the goal. We know every game from here on out, league and the Champions League, is a must win. It’s a cup final. We’re going to approach it that way.”
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy, a veteran of many MLS seasons as well as CCL play, believes that while it’s been a long journey so San Salvador, the team is more than ready.
“We’re at a point in the season where we should be fully fit and we should be able to count on guys to play multiple games, mix in a little and get some fresh legs,” he said. “We’ll just put it out there on the field and hopefully get a result.”
Though Dragón are already mathematically eliminated from Champions League advancement and currently sit at 11th place in the 12 team Primera League’s Apertura standings, Timbers defender Steven Taylor says the team is not taking its opponent lightly.
“This is going to be a difficult game for us so we’re going to be ready for it," he said.