Portland Timbers defender Zac McGraw

General thoughts on the match…

“First off, it was a great win. Whole team effort from everyone who stepped on the field, everyone on the sidelines, the coaches. We came out there knowing it was a weird game, just cause of the timing with everything. The lightning delays — we didn’t know how late we were playing. We kept hearing it was getting pushed back, but our main focus was regardless of what time we kicked off, what time we started to warm up, we needed to be the team that brought the intensity. We haven’t had success here in the past in terms of winning. We knew we needed to change something and just bring the energy all 90 minutes, which is something we did. We did well even though we didn’t have a lot of the possession, we still won a lot of the first and second balls and a lot of times that’s what helps win games.”

On positioning himself to score his first professional goal…

“It feels great. In terms of my movement, whenever Eryk [Williamson] gets in the box, no one really knows what he’s about to do. Kinda have to base my movement off him. So when it first looks like he’s chipping it back post, I have to reposition. Then when it looks like he’s dribbling down the line, I have to reposition. Then what I didn’t expect — which he ended up doing — was taking a shot. Literally it just landed in my lap. I kind of paused for a second because I thought for sure offside. I looked down the line and looked around and the flag stayed down. That’s when I decided to celebrate close to my family. My dad was over there in that section.”

On talking to his dad before and after the match…

“He didn’t make it to the last game at home against Seattle, but he grew up in Texas. His side of the family is from here. So he actually flew out this morning. The two things he said to me were ‘keep your headers down’ just because I kept heading the ball up against Seattle. I think he texted me three times the same text. It was ‘make sure you’re covering the back post on the second balls.’ I think we did a good job with that. But after the game, my dad was proud. He really was glad I could score in front of his friends and family here. My grandma, my dad. I had some friends who are stationed in Fort Hood, Texas from West Point. Army friends, so a couple of them came out. It means a lot because the game didn’t kick off until 10pm. Just sticking around in this weather delay was great to see a lot of support from them.”

On staying mentally focused and prepared to play…

“I’m not going to lie. It was hard. Finding a little bit of success with the starts in the first five games. Then you get more experienced players back in Dario [Župarić] and Larrys [Mabiala]. My mindset has to be I try as hard as I can every day and every training and ultimately it’s the coach’s decision. If they go with me, great. If they go with them, I just have to put my head down, support them and work as hard as I can. It’s a mental fortitude kind of thing. I could easily have checked out and gone to training and just brushed it aside. I don’t try to get in my way and let everything go, let everything slip. I’ve mainly focused on my touches, my longball distribution, my fitness. I didn’t want to let anything go, just so when they call upon me in the random July Nashville [SC] game where they say ‘hey Zac, you’re going to start this weekend. Are you ready?’ Ultimately I have to be ready. Those moments I look forward to just so every time I step on the field I can show that I’m always prepared and I’m always prepared to compete for my teammates.”

Portland Timbers defender Bill Tuiloma

General thoughts on the match…

“Very tough. Very tough game, but credit to the boys—the guys who started and the guys who came off the bench—they came in and put in the work. They came in and helped us defend well and block crucial shots. All the credit goes to the boys and three points.”

On Zac McGraw’s goal…

“So happy for him. He had a great game today. Started from last weekend’s game against Seattle and he came in and did his job. He got the goal in [tonight] and I’m very happy for him.”

On Eryk Williamson’s service on his goal…

“I mean Eryk, we all know his technique on the ball and his vision and how he whips the ball into the dangerous spots in the box. We just have to get our head there and I’m happy I did that today. Lot of great balls from him.”

On playing for stretches of the game without the ball…

“From the start, we knew this was going to be a tough game. We knew what Austin was going to bring us, especially at home. Very good at home and a strong team, but we knew it was going to be a fight. From the start of the whistle to the end whistle, we gave it our all. Credit to the boys and credit to the guys that came off the bench and helped us out.”

On keeping up the intensity heading into the final games of the regular season…

“We have to stay positive. Coming off two strong wins and two important wins and now we have to keep that momentum going. Now we go back home, back to Portland, get our bodies right, get our massages and talk to the medical staff on what we need to put us in the best position going on Sunday’s match, which is going to be a tough one too.”

On playing in a new formation…

“It’s been good. Having that different system in the squad, it’s good. We see that it’s working very well. We just have to keep working on it, keep working on the little things we need to improve on, but overall it’s working very well for us.”

Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese

Opening thoughts on the match…

“Important game for us. We mentioned every game that we’re going to play is going to be a final, an important match. Three points and today was a difficult task. Austin has a good team. Austin, I mentioned, they have their ideas clear, what they’re looking for on the field. I thought that we had a plan in place the guys executed very well. At moments, I thought we could have found maybe a little bit more in goals. [Austin] had their chances as well. We suffered in some moments, but we knew how to suffer into things that we wanted to do. It was a performance from the entire team knowing that if we did this job well, we could get three points. Credit to the guys. Everybody worked very well in the things we worked on and at the end of the day, a deserved win even though we played against a team that is difficult and strong, especially at home.”

On changing the team’s formation in the last few games…

“We spoke about wanting to change the system because what we saw in the second half against Kansas City, we felt that was a good performance. Based upon also the fact that we thought that playing with three in the back against Seattle, we felt it was a good way to cause some problems. We did it again this game, but I think even though it’s been three in the back, there’s been changes. There’s been changes, details we put in every game — with the ball, without the ball. Today, mostly without the ball. In the moments we needed to defend, we made sure to close spaces, that we made it difficult for them. I don’t think they found too many spaces open in their crosses because we had a compact team. Overall I thought that it worked really well today, in a different way than it worked against Seattle. Now, we’ll move forward to the next game and see what is the system we’re going to play and the guys that are going to come in. I’m just proud of the group. They keep putting a fight in and we want to make the playoffs. This is the only way that you continue to compete.”

On Zac McGraw’s performance…

“He’s done great. Congrats to him. Today he scored as well. Felt very happy for him. He did really well. He’s been doing really well these past few games. We know that he had a good start as well. It’s difficult for the coach when you have four very good centerbacks to make selections. He has shown that he’s grown and developed a lot in the years he’s been here because he looked very secure. Top it off with a goal in this match — it’s phenomenal. Very proud of him. Very proud of how he continues to work. I think he has the right mentality and that’s the reason why he continues to develop. We need to make sure that everybody continues to do the same thing they’ve been doing these past few games. Very important for us to keep that attitude and that mentality. McGraw has shown very well these past few games.”

On managing the team’s emotions in a high-intensity game…

“We knew it was going to be that type of game. We saw this type of game as well when Austin played against LAFC, so we expected that a lot of times when things don’t go their way, they will create moments in which they will get frustrated. We put in a mature performance that the guys were able to manage many, many different things. I feel that the yellow card on Eryk [Williamson] was harsh because he wasn’t delaying the play. He was trying to bring one extra player higher and the end of the day, I think we played a smart game — a very mature match. That’s why I think the guys deserve all the credit that you can give them for the performance today.”