Giovanni Savarese, Timbers @ SKC, 11.29.18
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

MLS Cup Playoffs Quotes & Notes | Sporting Kansas City 2, Portland Timbers 3 | Nov. 29, 2018

Portland Timbers Quotes

Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese
On his emotions after the match…
“Very proud of the performance from the guys. I thought it was a very difficult first half. I thought they were very good and we were lucky to be only one goal down, but then the character came out in the second half and I thought we were very, very good. We were able to find the three goals that we needed. The guys were just excellent. We played together. We put the fight that we needed to put into the second half. I’m just very proud of the performance.”

On what he said to the team at halftime…
“Some words were said to the players and in the end we came out with the fire that we needed in the second half.”

On Sebastián Blanco’s goal in the second half…
Incredible. I had a perfect view. Blanco has scored some amazing goals, but this one was incredible. You have to remember that we beat a very, very good team. Peter [Vermes] has done a tremendous job. We had to give everything because they made it difficult in a difficult stadium. This makes me even more proud because it was against a very good team.”

On closing out the game over the last 20 minutes of the match…
“In some moments, we were a little sloppy. Sloppy in the sense that we were chasing and making sure that we defended in close spaces because they were coming from different directions. The guys put their heart into it and they believed all along and then, at the end, we got the third goal.”

On winning the Western Conference Championship in his first season as coach…
“I’m very proud of the performance from the guys and what they achieved. It’s all on them. It’s a credit to a group that worked hard, a group that believed all along that we can achieve something great, and now this achievement has put us where we want to be in the final.”

Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri 
On defeating Sporting Kansas City in the Conference Final…
“I think we played a great second half. At the end of the first half we started to be on the ball a little bit better and that gave us some chances. Sebastián’s [Blanco] goal gave us a lot of energy and confidence to find the second one and then we defended against a good team. Then, we were efficient in the last 25 minutes. It’s a great feeling in a really hard stadium where we couldn’t win since 2013, so it’s unbelievable.”

On helping Blanco find open spaces on the field… 
“I think he was winning the spaces that I left in the first half, but in the second one, in the goal, he did it really well. I asked him in the field and he said that he just kicked. It was a great kick.”

On the changes the team made from the first half to the second half…
“I think they put a lot of pressure in the first 25 minutes of the first half, winning a lot of duels with long kicks and long balls in behind, being simple and putting crosses. They found the goal, which gave them a little bit of release. They are a very good team. They open up pretty well the field, the put pressure, they are on the ball all the time, they are intense. But we found goals in the second half, with the ball, as I said. In the first part of the second half and the second part of the first half we were much better on the ball. We combined good passes, we found some chances and we were efficient.”

Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastián Blanco
On his goal in the second half…

“I’m very happy because that goal changed the game. We played 30 minutes back and it was so difficult, but we worked so hard every day “

On the difference in the second half…
“I think the mentality. In the first half, we didn’t play good enough. I think they scored one goal, but unlucky because they had chances for two or three [goals]. But we changed the mentality enough to score a goal. We felt more confident and started to believe in ourselves. It’s beautiful. Soccer is beautiful because the game can change in one minute. Today, I think we did a great job in the second half.”

On what it means to make it to MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers..
“I think I worked so hard for that, of course, and the Timbers, Merritt [Paulson] and Gavin [Wilkinson] believed in me for this, so I feel happy working for my team and my teammates. We need one game more. I feel very happy for it, but we need to continue hard.”

On if he knew right away his goal was going in…
“I couldn’t believe it. I tried to of course shoot, but not in that place. It’s beautiful because for us it was amazing for the confidence and for feeling good. I’m very happy for scoring , the win and for playing my first time in MLS Cup.”

Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella
On what head coach Giovanni Savarese said to the team at halftime…

“Gio was very honest. We came out and it wasn’t good enough. I think we got a little bit lucky to get out of the first half only down one in the first half, but at the same time we took their best punches and we got out of there only down one. We knew that we could play better and I think when Seba [Sebastián Blanco] dropped that banger it lifted everyone a lot.”

On getting results in the playoffs…
“If you look back at that 15-game unbeaten run, we had a certain formula and it’s tough to maintain that throughout the course of the season. We’ve gotten back to it where we’re organized defensively, we’re really tough to break down and that’s the kind of stuff that works in the playoffs. I think everyone is buying into what made us successful during the year. It’s also important to remember that the seasons are long. There’s a lot of ups and downs. There are a lot of things that go on during the course of the season, but you want to be peaking at the right time and I think that’s what we’ve done.”

On how the team has grown together…
“I think before the [Real] Salt Lake game, it was a little bit of a gut-check time. We had to decide what type of season we wanted it to be. When you start in January, and a lot of the different things that we went through – starting the season on the road that long… It’s just a lot of the ups and downs of the season. Once we had that meeting, everyone came together and beating Salt Lake like that gave us a boost going into the playoffs. At the end of the day, we’re a team that’s sticking together and we’re battling in these playoffs and going to ride it out as long as we can.”

Sporting Kansas City Quotes

Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes
Thoughts on the second half…
“It’s hard to comment on the third goal. The other two I think were two goals – even though Blanco scores a great goal from distance – I think we just gave way too much room on both goals. That one and the other one as well, I don’t think that we stepped out to their players in those areas of the field and put them under pressure enough. They had way too much time on the ball. Obviously, being down 2-1 we get back into it at 2-2 and we’re pushing everything forward and they get the third. We had some chances to get there. We definitely had some chances. We just couldn’t finish it off.”

On the difference in the game…
“I think that we were in control of the game from the get go. I thought that we were good. We were unlucky not to get that second goal – a soft call in my opinion but it is what it is. We get in at halftime winning 1-0. I think if you just look at the two chances that we gave up, those two chances are what were the difference in the game. It’s a great goal by Blanco but he should never have the chance to hit a ball from that distance without pressure. We had no pressure on him at all. I think that was the difference in those two situations.”

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler
On Portland’s play in the second half…
We talked about it at halftime how important it was to start the second half strong because we knew the game wasn’t going to finish 1-0. Their season was on the line so they were going to throw everything they had at us, so we needed to be ready for that. Unfortunately, we weren’t. We had a bad spell there for 10-15 minutes where we were a bit spread out and a few of Portland’s attacking players were able to find those spaces. Their most creative guys got on the ball and they made plays in that 10-15 minute spell.”

On how close the game…
“That’s the game. In a two-game series, the margins are so small. I’m not sure if we could have drawn up a better first half, performance wise other than not getting more goals. We did score three but two of them got called back. We knew the situation that we were in at halftime. It was a really good first half but we also knew that the game wasn’t going to finish like that and we needed to be ready. We had a few decent chances there at the end but Portland made enough plays and made the plays they needed to advance and hold on.”

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Illie Sánchez
Thoughts on the game…
“They were good. They did their job and we were almost there. It’s the end of the season. We are sad, but we need to use this offseason to come back stronger next year, because we will have thick competitions to fight for.”

Notes:

  • Portland advanced to its second MLS Cup in four seasons (2015, 2018).
  • The Timbers advanced to a league final for the third time in their club history (1975, 2015, and 2018). In all eras of the club, Portland has now played 46 playoff games with an all-time record of 19-19-8.
  • Portland has now played 17 MLS playoff matches and has a record of 8-4-5.
  • Since MLS went to its current playoff format, the Timbers are the first No. 5 seed to advance out of the Western Conference to MLS Cup.
  • Portland has recorded five road wins in the MLS playoffs in six seasons, posting a record of 5-2-2.
  • The Timbers have the best postseason road winning percentage (.667) and goal differential (+3) in MLS history.
  • Dating back to when he was head coach of the New York Cosmos in the NASL, Giovanni Savarese has qualified for the league final five times in six seasons.
  • Savarese has recorded nine wins in his 13 playoff games as a professional manager and has made the league semifinals or further in all six seasons he has been a head coach.
  • Diego Valeri scored two goals in the match, notching his second brace of the 2018 postseason. The two multi-goal games are the only two braces in Timbers playoff history.
  • Valeri now has six goals in his postseason career, including five on the road. Valeri is the seventh player in MLS history and only active player with six or more playoff goals and six or more playoff assists.
  • Sebastián Blanco scored his third goal of the 2018 postseason.
  • Blanco and Valeri are the only Timbers players to ever score three or more goals in a single postseason and are tied for the season lead for goals in all competitions with 14.
  • Jorge Villafaña delivered his first career MLS playoffs assist in his 13th postseason appearance.
  • Diego Chara had his second career postseason assist. Chara also had an assist in his first ever playoff match on Nov. 2, 2013.
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