BEAVERTON, Ore. – In the aftermath of the Portland Timbers 4-0 loss on Saturday to the New York Red Bulls, three overriding themes have quickly emerged: accountability, change and patience.
What hadn’t surfaced as the team practiced Tuesday at the adidas Training Center was dejection. To see the team’s first training after its return from Harrison, New Jersey, was to see an attitude consistent with the group’s first seven weeks on the field, and while that could be misread as the team not taking heart in its failures, it was actually the product of two days’ perspective, as well as the realization that, this early in the season, everything is still under their control.
“In reflecting upon it, and watching the game, and then rewatching it, I think one of the positives we can take is that all the damage that was done, we did it to ourselves,” was Timbers right back Zarek Valentin’s Tuesday diagnosis. “In terms of giving balls away we didn’t have to, being a bit unorganized at times, our mentality in terms of tracking back and fighting.
“All these things are within our control. I definitely think that if we played Red Bulls again, this year, I don’t think the game would go quite that way. I think we missed a lot of chances. I don’t think they caused us too many issues. I think we caused ourselves issues.”
It’s the type of even keel approach which, undoubtedly, had been helped by some detachment from Saturday’s events. According to Valentin, the attitude directly after the performance was much different.
“Immediately, it [was] not good,” Valentin said. “There [was] lot of reflection. I also think it is important for players not to immediately react, and fans as well.”
That patience – or perspective, if you prefer – was another thing Valentin preached in the wake of Saturday’s route.
“We’re emotional,” he said. “We care. We’re in Portland, and the fans give a s---. And that’s really cool. People are emotional, and the players are emotional.
“I think it’s smart for us to not immediately react, because it’s based on emotion. A lot of times, even in a game, I’ll saw, ‘Oh, man, I remember this play like this.’ I’ll go to a player and chat about it, and then I’ll go to a replay, and it happens nothing like that.”
Valentin’s scenario was a hypothetical, but it alludes to disconnects which seem to be part of the Timbers’ issues. Those disconnects were at the forefront of head coach Giovanni Savarese’s mind when he addressed the media.
“The biggest problem at the moment is to be able to be in sync, to be able to put the effort in for the entire match,” he confirmed. “We’re working on it. The guys understand what we need to do. Of course, these are not the results that we wanted to see at the beginning of the season. But this transition is the time to get us to where we want to be.”
The reality of that transition has come into greater focus after the team’s 0-2-0 start. Whereas once it appeared the team may hit the ground running this season, the realities of its offseason turnover have now hit home. That turnover extends from the touchline to the bottom of the depth chart, leaving the entire first team in a state of adaptation.
“It’s going to take time,” Valentin cautioned. “We have a new staff, new players, and we have a lot of moving pieces right now. I’ll tell you this, though: When we do get it, and it will happen, we’re going to be a tough team to play against.”
In the face of his first major setback, Savarese remains optimistic, especially in light of a Tuesday session that, in the coaches’ view, showed “that everybody is working for each other.”
“I haven’t brought that many changes,” he said. “There are simple things that we need to do, and I have no doubt, with this group, that we’re going to be able to get there.”