Giovanni Savarese, Timbers Training, 2.6.18
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Perspective, mentality change dominate Timbers’ preparations for Dallas

PORTLAND, Ore. – One week ago, the Portland Timbers returned to the adidas Training Center looking for perspective on a deflating result. Now, a week-and-a-half removed from that 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls’ second-choice team, head coach Giovanni Savarese has seen the product of his team’s reflection, lauding the new approach he’s witnessed since Portland’s humbling in Harrison, New Jersey.

“There has definitely been a change in the mentality,” Savarese said on Tuesday, at his weekly press conference. “I think everybody has taken responsibility – all of us, me first – in what happened in New York. Collectively, we have understood that, and the guys are working very hard to make sure that we get to the point that we want.”

That hard work included a Saturday session this weekend, leaving them with one full day off (Sunday) since last Tuesday’s return to the field. The next break from the field will come with Thursday’s flight to Texas, with the Timbers facing FC Dallas on Saturday (12:30 p.m. PT, Live Stream on Twitter, UniMás, Univision Deportes) in their third straight road game to start the 2018 season.

That game will mark the mid-way point of the team’s opening, five-game stint away from Providence Park, but given the Timbers’ time between games, this latest road trip may prove a welcome one. Come kickoff at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, Portland will have had 14 days to stew on their setback in New York.

“It’s been good for us to have this break, this week, to put things in order and to prepare the best possible way against Dallas, which is going to be a tough match,” Savarese said. “Another road game, but the guys are prepared to be able to go there and have a good match.”

That hint of optimism was echoed by Savarese’s players, who, this week, have been transitioning from their bye-week regroup into a normal span of preparation. While those two weeks have broken the team’s early-season routine, they’ve also seen the team’s mood elevate, giving the squad time to reflect on their last result.

“We have to forget quickly, because the next game does not reflect last,” Timbers’ midfielder/defender Lawrence Olum said on Tuesday, casting a forward view while still offering perspective on the team’s setback.

“If you look at the game, we were only down a goal up until the 75th minute,” he explained. “We can’t take the final scoreline as being what we wanted, but we had some good moments that, if we can focus more on those and work a bit better on the lapses we had in the game, I think we’ll be fine for Dallas.”

There is a fine line, though, between finding perspective and ignoring lessons. For Timbers forward Fanendo Adi, the team’s change in mood reflects those lessons, ones the team were forced to embrace after its 0-2-0 start.

“It’s definitely different,” Adi said about the team’s mood compared to last week. “Of course, we had a tough two weeks, two games. Everyone came in not happy about the whole thing, but after going through the videos and talking, it’s just a part of the season. It’s a long season, so we just have to keep our head up.”

From Savarese’s point of view, it is best that the season’s hiccups come now, when there is more time to correct them. Weaknesses in both performance and approach have been exposed, and with 32 games remaining, the Timbers have plenty of time to rebound.

“It is good to go through this transition in this way,” he said, “because I think that us going through these difficulties, this is what is going to build character we’re going to need to have, to hopefully have a good season.

“In a way, I’m glad that we’ve seen that now, and not further in the season. I think the response has been very good from the players.”