Giovanni Savarese, Timbers @ Union, 5.25.19

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese forecasted this congestion early last week, when he started speaking both in the press and to his team about the coming challenge. Thanks to a victory in U.S. Open Cup play last week over Seattle Sounders FC, the Timbers begin a stretch of four games in 12 days on Wednesday, one that will test not only their roster’s depth but how the team prioritizes their two competitions.

“For us, it’s important that every player is ready for whenever they’re going to have the opportunity,” Savarese said from Providence Park on Monday, his team two days from their U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match against the LA Galaxy (8pm, TICKETS, ESPN+).

Come Saturday, the Timbers will host the Houston Dynamo (8pm PT, TICKETS, ROOT SPORTS), the start of a three-games-in-nine-days stretch that marks their return to MLS play. A mid-week trip to Montreal to face the Impact comes three days after that (4:30pm PT, FOX 12 Oregon), with a Sunday, June 30 visit from FC Dallas ending one of the season’s most taxing spells (8pm PT, TICKETS, FOX 12 Oregon, Unimás).

“These are tough stretches, but there’s also the positive side out of it,” Savarese said. “Maybe some guys will get an opportunity to show a little bit more of what they show in practice.”

Rotation is going to happen. Savarese admitted as much last week, saying, “There are going to be moments that players are going to have to rotate and be prepared for certain games but not others”. But other factors, like Sebastián Blanco’s yellow card accumulation suspension for the Dynamo game or Bill Tuiloma’s recovery from a leg injury, go beyond time management. For a roster that’s used its Targeted Allocation Money resources to build depth, the coming stretch will show who is and who is not ready to contribute.

“These moments are important because you never know what’s going to happen,” Savarese explained “Somebody’s going to be tired. Somebody is going to be hurt. So, somebody has to step in. This is the opportunity, now, for some players to get the minutes that they wanted. The opportunity presents itself.”

This is also an opportunity to show where the Open Cup lies among the Timbers’ priorities. With a weekend game near, Portland has license to manage their veterans’ miles, keep the Dynamo game in mind, and pass minutes out to players who normally see time in USL, with Timbers 2.

Given an opportunity to do the same last week in Tacoma, Washington, against the Sounders, Savarese put out a full-strength team. Though the coming congestion makes the current situation different, Savarese remains committed to Open Cup.

“The philosophy is that we want to go far in everything in which we participate,” he said. “We want to go far in the U.S. Open Cup. We want to go and qualify for the (MLS Cup) playoffs. We want to finish as high as we can in the table and try to host a game in the playoffs, God willing.

“We really compete for everything. We believe in every player that we have in order to do that.”

With a win, the Timbers will match the depth they reached in last year’s competition: Open Cup’s final eight. Los Angeles FC and the San Jose Earthquakes play Thursday to determine the other team in the West region’s part of the quarterfinals.