SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – Though the Portland Timbers lost 4-2 to Deportivo Saprissa in an energetic match in Group B play of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, the visitors were still feeling confident following the match in their ability to progress from the group.
After Portland jumped out to an early lead courtesy of a fifth minute goal from midfielder Diego Valeri, Saprissa were awarded two penalty kicks in the game—one in each half—and tacked on two more goals. A second half goal from Portland’s Fanendo Adi kept the Timbers close and provided another important away goal.
“You saw we had a great plan, to come into the game. We scored a fair goal six minutes in, a great goal, and I thought you saw with Saprissa they got on top of us a little bit after that, which was one of the points I made at halftime to my guys – ‘We need to do a better job of keeping the ball and not defending quite so deep,’” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter after the match. “Ultimately we scored two good goals, so I credit my guys for coming on the road and scoring two good goals in this environment.”
“[Saprissa is] a talented team. I think we’re a talented team where we match up well,” added midfielder Ben Zemanski. “They won their home game, now it’s on us to win ours and we like our chances at home.”
Though Portland returns to MLS play Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, the next CCL game is less than two weeks away in El Salvador against C.D. Dragón on Sept. 27 with the final match against Saprissa in Providence Park in October and the Timbers still believe they have the ability to advance in the tournament in their hands.
“We feel that we’re still in the driver’s seat. Even though right now Saprissa is sitting on seven points,” said Porter. “If we win the next two games, which going on the road Dragón, nothing is guaranteed, but we should win that game. They’re out of the tournament, and then that sets up the last game and I like our chances. I like our chances at home."
Portland’s two goals may not have been enough to win the match on this night, particularly with two penalty kick calls against them, but scoring both at Estadio Saprissa was no small feat. In the four previous games with an MLS team playing at Saprissa, MLS teams scored only two goals combined.
“I think those [away] goals will maybe help us,” said Valeri. “We need to think of the next game and we are in a good position to be the first one in the group.”