TUCSON, Ariz. – The Portland Timbers’ Saturday at Kino Sports Complex was summed up in six words, the response head coach Giovanni Savarese gave when asked, after Portland’s 2-1 preseason loss to FC Dallas, whether the Timbers were where he wanted them to be this preseason.
“Definitely yes, yesterday,” Saverese said, starting on a positive note. “Definitely no, today.”
Dallas, gearing up for its CONCACAF Champions League match next week, was a step ahead of Portland throughout the first 45 minutes, leaving Oscar Pareja’s team up two goals at halftime, when he pulled his first group.
Dallas forward Maxi Urruti beat Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella from short-range in the 16th minute and doubled his team’s lead later in the half with a one-touch finish in front of goal. But Urutti came close to two other goals over the first 45 minutes, leaving Portland fortunate to reach intermission down only two.
In contrast, the closest Portland came to a first half opener was a one-timer from Dairon Asprilla from right of the penalty spot, unleashing a shot that veered just right of Jesse Gonzalez’s goal.
“The ball movement was better from Dallas,” Savarese explained. “They found space because we were not getting into those spaces, to be able to cover.
“We allowed them to get the better of us in the first half. They looked confident, and they looked dangerous when they attacked, especially moving the ball from inside wide.”
Things began to change for Portland at the start of the second half, albeit against a completely different Dallas XI. By the time Savarese switched his formation, giving Samuel Armenteros his Timbers debut alongside fellow striker Fanendo Adi, the Timbers had control of play, something that helped produce Armenteros’ first Portland goal.
“My job is to score goals,” Armenteros said, when asked about the importance of scoring early in his Timbers’ tenure. “That’s what I know the club expects of me, and that’s what my job is: To deliver goals. It feels good for myself to get that out of the way.
“Everybody knows, as strikers, we go with the flow. When we feel good, we perform better. It feels good to hit the back of the net.”
Perhaps more important than Armenteros’ goal was the shape of the team when he scored, as well as Portland’s performance from its new formation. The Timbers gave a glimpse of what the team could look like when its two strikers are played together.
“We have an idea of how we want to play – an identity,” Savarese said, “but sometimes we have to adapt to different situations. And today, I thought we had to adapt to what we saw as a problem …
“By us going to three in the middle and keeping Valeri beneath two strikers, we had more mobility up top, and we created a lot more problems for them. We were able to win a lot more balls.”
Portland came close to a late equalizer after a Vytas ball through the six-yard box went off Jeremy Ebobisse toward a forgotten Julio Cascante at Dallas’s right post. Unable to steer the pass home, Cascante soon heard the final whistle.
For Savarese, though, this is what the preseason is about.
“It’s important that these things happen at this moment, in these matches, so that we can be prepared for what is coming,” he said. “Most of all, I think, the good thing is to see how we react: when we put some players in, how we changed the game. Then you can score more goals and get back into it.”