Diego Valeri #2, Timbers vs. SKC, 11.25.18
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

MLS Cup Playoffs Quotes & Notes | Portland Timbers 0, Sporting Kansas City 0 | Nov. 25, 2018

Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese
General thoughts on the match…
“I thought the guys played a fantastic game today, especially the first half. They battled the entire match, they put their hearts in. We showed quality. We kept the ball. We created chances, one that I jumped when it hit the post. I thought it was in. Today it didn’t want to go in, but we did a fantastic job defensively. Definitely we wanted to get a win at home, but also [Sporting Kansas City] didn’t get any goals. So now we have to go there, make sure we’re prepared in the days that we have and give everything we have to try and go through. We know they’re a tough team. They showed it today. They’re a difficult team. They’re very cohesive. Peter [Vermes] always does a good job and we expected this type of game today.”

On any pressure on the team going to Kansas City after a scoreless draw…
“I don’t see it as what kind of pressure. We have to go there and try to get a win. We have to go there with the mentality that it’s one game, like it is in the regular season, and we have to go there to try and get a win. Prepare the plan, prepare the players to make sure that we get there, recover a few of the guys that today were not available and then make sure we go there to win.”

On adjustments the team needs to make ahead of the second leg…
“We have to analyze first. We have to watch the video, which we will probably do tonight. Then right away, starting tomorrow, we’ll look into the things we can do better. I thought the first half especially, the second half was very good, but the first half we forced them where we wanted them to play. We were able to pressure them quick, we created a lot of problems, we created good chances, but in some moments maybe we needed an extra player coming inside the box. In some moments maybe the cross could have come in lower rather than high. So just little things that could have been a little better that we’ll look at and then we’ll plan accordingly for Thursday, which we expect another very difficult game.”

On Andy Polo’s status and absence…
“Definitely Polo is an important component of this team, but I thought everyone that played did a great job. [Dairon] Asprilla on that side played a very good game, maybe got tired, I’d say, in the last four minutes, but he played very well. He was very dangerous constantly on the right side. He created chances, and of course Polo could have been another option for us, but unfortunately wasn’t available.”

On Bill Tuiloma’s performance…
“I’ve been very proud because anybody that steps on the field does the job and Bill did that. It’s very difficult to come in, having to replace a guy like [Larrys] Mabiala, coming in and I thought he did with the right mentality, did everything the right way. Unfortunately could have had a goal right there, but a great save by [Tim] Melia. I thought [Tuiloma] played very, very well.”

On how the prospect of yellow card suspension played a role in his players performance…
“We have smart players. They know what to do and what not to do. I thought also, the referees have been very good in helping in this playoff stage to make sure that there’s not any yellow given for no good reason. They have been able to make sure the players that need to be playing continue to play. Credit to the referees and credit to the experience of the players from both teams.”

On how well his team executed their game plan tonight…
“I thought it was obvious in the game. We expected [Kansas City] to be more conservative in the first leg, which they did. They were solid defensively. They closed the spaces well. I thought there were times, especially in the first half, where we created some very good opportunities because of the good mobility that we were able to have. Both teams expected something. For us, I thought the only thing missing today was the goal. Because I think we did a lot of good things that we planned and they executed. Unfortunately the ball didn’t go in for us, but now we have to prepare for Thursday. We also have to see about the weather conditions because that’s going to be another situation to consider, but we have to go there and perform.”

On what changes need to be made positionally or mentally for Portland to score…
“It’s a combination of two things. Sometimes there’s days it doesn’t want to go in. That post from [Jorge] Villafaña in the first half, I jumped. I saw it in. Sometimes it doesn’t want to go in. But there are little things that we can help in looking. We have to evaluate. Maybe some movements, maybe some things more that we can do. For example there was a cross in the second half that Jeremy [Ebobisse] jumped, but maybe there was nobody at the second post taking that space. So little things we can analyze, but overall the guys performed very well. It was just a little unlucky not to find a goal.”

On the support in Portland during his first season as head coach…
“It’s incredible. This place tonight was magical. The energy, the passion of the fans… I saw them 4:30 yesterday in the afternoon already in line. For a team, a coach, an organization to have these types of fans is incredible. That’s why the guys today, they brought a very good energy and I’m very proud of the performance today.”

Portland Timbers defender Jorge Villafaña
On not allowing Sporting Kansas City to score…
“A difficult match. We created opportunities, unfortunately they didn’t go in. But I think it’s a great result. We kept our goal with zero goals allowed and I think us going there and scoring a goal is going to put pressure on them.”

On hitting a volley off the post…
“It’s a play where I see Zarek [Valentin] going down the line and I looked back and saw that I could go because [Diego] Chara or David [Guzmán] were in the back, so I pushed a little bit higher and the ball just bounced and I hit it how it came. I didn’t know if it was going to go to the goal or not; I just hit it. A little bit unlucky that it didn’t go in.”

On coming back from national team duty…
“I felt good. I think the [coaching] staff managed me good during the last three to four days. Most of the days were recovery, just like jogs and everything so I could be fresh for this game. I felt good tonight. I didn’t feel tired and now we just have to start thinking about the next game.”

Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastián Blanco
On the team’s chances heading into the second leg at Sporting Kansas City…

“In this part of the season, every goal is important. We can play the same game like today – very tough, very difficult.”

On getting a shutout tonight…
“It was very important. We can score there and complete the game; we have a team for that. We need to rest and work hard like today, but over there.”

On if he is worried about the cold weather for the second leg at Sporting Kansas City…
“No. I played in Ukraine, so for me it’s OK.”

On the mentality of the team heading into the second leg…
“The same like today. We need to score. We have to find the game, to win and to score because for us it’s important. [Tonight] for us is a good result. We thought we played good. We created many chances. I think the mentality is the same because we have a chance.

Portland Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell
On his thoughts about tonight’s match…

“These are two very good teams; two very hard-working teams going in head to head. They pride themselves on defending, as we do. Two good teams and a very good game.”

On not being able to score against Sporting Kansas City…
“It’s always frustrating when you know that it’s a post or one more ball that you need to connect, but that’s football for you sometimes. I think they sat behind a little bit, as they did when they played RSL when they played at home.”

On playing two games in five days after a long break…
“It’s a short turnaround. Depends on people getting injuries or people struggling that might affect us. We went from two weeks with no games to two games in four days. It’s one that you just want to get to and play again.”

Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri
On taking confidence into the second leg at Sporting Kansas City…

“Of course we are confident about the performance of this game, but more confident about our quality as a team. Our strength is our unity and our mind, which is very focused on winning a trophy. Today we probably dominated most of the time in the game, which is a good thing and we can do it on the road too. It’s a final and I think it’s a result where it’s open.”

On the mentality of the team…
“The mentality of the team is to now rest well and prepare for the game, scouting what put us in a position to dominate the game today and to do it the next game. We’ll try to be patient and try to create chances for an away goal, which will be important for the next game.”

On the challenges of playing on the road against Sporting KC…
“The challenges will probably be to win duels and try to stop their buildup, which is really good at home. This will be a final, so be focused and go in with the mindset of a winning team all the time because if we score a goal, even in a 1-1 result, we’re through.”

Sporting Kansas City Quotes

Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes
On the game overall…

“We wish we had won, but to not walk out of here with that situation is acceptable at the moment based on the series that we have. Now we have to get home and get ready for the final. That’s what it is. It’s not going to be easy, obviously. We understand they came with everything tonight. It was a tough game. I thought defensively we were very strong. Tim [Melia] was excellent in goal. Maybe if we’re a little bit better around the box today, maybe we stick one of those in in the second half. But I thought the second half was much different than the first.”

On the difference in the second half, when they had eight of their nine shots in the game…
“I think we realized there were a couple of things that we could do to break them down a little bit more, and I think that really started to open things up. I also think that they pushed some numbers forward a little. They wanted to stretch the game. They wanted to get a win here at home, and I think the combination of those two provided opportunities. I don’t know how the one at the end that kind of trickled through the goal doesn’t go in. But it is what it is.”

On the physicality of the game…
“I think it’s a playoff game. I actually think the referee crew did a fantastic job in the game. Robert [Sibiga, center referee for the game] kept really cool when he could have thrown out a million yellow cards. I think he kind of settled the game down, and I think that he was very consistent throughout the game. He was very smart in that regard.”

On getting a clean sheet against the Timbers in Providence Park…
“I can’t tell you other than that it’s a credit to the guys. They work hard. They were very disciplined here. I think they have been throughout the season. I think we’re a pretty good defensive team and we’ve been consistently that for a long time. And at the same time I think it also takes guys to be concentrated and a lot of hard work, and I think we did that tonight.”

On whether he was surprised by the Timbers’ start…
“No. I think that we expected that…look, it’s not an easy place to play. They have a lot of very good players on their team. We were aware that there were certain things that we had to eliminate if we could. I think, all in all, over the course of the game, we were solid on that side of the park in regards to defensive [play]. Like I said, I think in the second we had some really good chances and that’s because we saw some things in the first half that we thought we could isolate in the second half and we did a pretty good job of doing it.”

On the position of the team after a 0-0 draw in the first leg…
“I don’t know who goes into any of these games thinking they’re going to go for a tie. You just can’t do it. You’ve got to go for the win. That’s what this next game ends up being. It’s truly a final and they’re going to be really good, and we’re going to try to be really good and everybody’s going to be going after it. It’s going to be one of those games where it’s probably going to be down to the wire.”

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler
On the position of the team going into Thursday’s game after the 0-0 draw…

“It puts us in a good position. At the same time, there’s a lot of work to be done. We know that Portland’s a team that plays really well on the road with their style and they’re a dangerous team. We put in a lot of good work today. It’s halftime, and like I said, we’re in a good position. We control our own destiny and we know that we get to play in front of our fans next time, and if we win, we’re in MLS Cup.”

On the performance of the Timbers that made it hard for Sporting KC to score…
“They’re a good defensive team, especially here at home. This is a tough place to play and they have an extremely good record all season long. We expected that. We had a couple decent chances there in the second half. So it would have been a perfect situation to stick one of those in, but unfortunately we weren’t able to. But at the same time, we did a lot of good work. I think overall it was a pretty good result for us.”

On the changes the team will need to make heading into the second leg…
“It’s going to be a completely different game because we’re going to be at home. We’re going to be in front of our fans. We expect to play at probably a higher tempo. It was a difficult game [tonight], I think for both sides. The game never settled down. It had a very frantic pace, and we expected that to start the game, but we also expected it to calm down at some point and for us to get on the ball a little bit, and for them to get on the ball. That never happened. It was back and forth for 90-plus minutes, and credit to the guys. We competed hard, and we made enough plays to keep it zero.”

Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell
On the result…

“It was a good result for us. Obviously, we would have liked to come in here and get the win and get that late goal. In the second half, we had plenty of chances that we could have done that, especially myself. I need to bury that one [referring to his shot that went high in the 47th minute]. I had to go high and I went too high but it’s another positive result. It’s another game on the road in the playoffs without losing, as well, so although we wanted to get the win, the draw is a good result for us, especially going back home 90 minutes away from the MLS Cup. We’re in a good position. We know it’s going to be another difficult game, but we feel like getting back to our place, playing a home game, we’ve got a really good chance.”

On the knowing that if they win at home in the second leg that they’ll advance to MLS Cup…
“If you had told us at the beginning of the season that we were going to be 90 minutes away from the Cup final, at home, of course we’re going to take that. We’ve worked hard all season. We’ve worked so hard to be in that position, to get that game, and we’ve got ourselves there. It’s going to be another game like tonight. We’ve got to give it everything. We’ll have guys step up, and if we do that then we’re confident that we’ll be able to get the result that we need.”

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sánchez
On the game overall…

“We got one of our two objectives, our two goals. We didn’t give up any goals, but we could not score. That could be a huge part for us, but I think we did a good job, and we got a pretty good result for the second leg.”

On the physicality of the game, especially the first half…
“It’s funny. In the end, everyone wants to play in these games. And one of the reasons is what you just said. Also, their crowd was excellent tonight, and I think that raised that intensity for both teams. I don’t expect anything less at home Thursday.”

On the differences in the team’s attack that led to more shots in the second half…
“We talked before the game that when you play these kinds of rounds [two legs], you try to play four halves like if they were four games. In the first half, I think that they were a little bit better. We understood what we needed to do in the second half much better and that showed in the last 45 minutes. We just have to keep that mentality for the next 45 minutes and then the last 45 minutes at home.”

Notes:

  • Portland recorded its 11th shutout of the 2018 season and its ninth overall at Providence Park.
  • Sunday’s shutout marked the ninth time in Timbers history across all eras that the team has held an opponent scoreless in a playoff game.
  • The match was the 45th playoff game in Timbers history since the club’s founding in 1975.
  • Portland finished its home campaign with a record of 14-2-5 in all competitions.
  • Diego Valeri was credited with seven chances created in the match, which is tied for the second-most chances created by a Timbers player in an MLS playoff game. Valeri had eight chances created against Sporting Kansas City in the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
  • Valeri has created 17 chances during the 2018 postseason – nine more than any other player in MLS.
  • Jeff Attinella started his sixth playoff game for Portland, tying the club record for most career postseason starts for a Timbers goalkeeper with Matt Napoleon, who started six playoff games for Portland in 2001 and 2002.
  • Attinella has two career shutouts in the postseason for Portland. His two shutouts are tied with Josh Wicks for the most postseason shutouts by a Timbers goalkeepers across all eras (since 1975).
  • Valeri has started 15 MLS postseason matches since joining Portland in 2013. Only Bradley Wright-Phillips and Chad Marshall have more playoffs starts during that span.
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