Timbers FC

Gio: "Sometimes players need to step up... this is one of those moments."

With the showdown with Seattle looming, head coach Giovanni Savarese talks about pressure.
Gio - Sidelines - Timbers.vsSeattle050921.CM129
Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese

It's matchday in Portland and not just any matchday. Tonight will be the second regular season clash with the Seattle Sounders. There are the bragging rights that accompany any win over a fierce rival, of course, but tonight both teams will take the field with even more to gain—and to lose. Playoff chances, and a Cascadia Cup are—a lot is on the line.

As the showdown looms, we asked head coach Giovanni Savarese about preparing under pressure.

How did you prepare the team for this game?

Savarese: First of all, every time we play Seattle, it's the game probably where I talk the least [to the players] in regards to what we need to do... in the sense of understanding that this is a huge game. This is a derby. This El Classico. The guys usually ready to play this game.

But I think this game—of all the games that we have played against [Seattle outside of] the playoffs—is a playoff game. Because the team that gets three points puts himself in a much better situation. The guys need to understand that even though I'm going to bring a little more pressure, they need to learn how to play with pressure. It's how players play all over the world. And sometimes players need to step up and this is one of those moments. A lot of times, it's all about making sure that we practice well. But in this particular game, there's more at stake that I think the guys need to be aware of.

Nevertheless, the trust is in them. They can they have freedoms to go into the field and enjoy [it]. They have to be bold... and brave. If they make a mistake, they gotta continue to play. And if one guy makes the mistake, it's the mistake of the whole team, the coach, everybody. And as a group we [have to] continue to push together.

Do you worry about too much pressure?

They are professionals. I'm not going to kill them, because that's not the right thing. But it's putting pressure to create awareness in the reality of understanding that this beyond a Classico derby. It is like a final. And when you play finals, you have to have that level of understanding that there is pressure, but the pressure should be a positive pressure. It should be something that we alert, that we still have to be able to perform under that pressure in a very positive way. Because it's only only about awareness, but we have to do the same things that we've done. We have been always competitive.

The pressure comes from us. At a high level, but in a positive way. [We have to] make sure that we are at the standard that we're supposed to be at, for fans, for our group, for everything that we believe in every time that we step on the field.