Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese
On Diego Valeri’s impact off the bench…
“Everyone played a very important role in the game today. Everybody had exactly something that they needed to do in this game. Remember, we didn’t have that much time to be able to recover. Only three days from last match, so we had to be smart in the way we went about this match. Everyone really contributed to make sure that we got a great win. Diego came right there at halftime. It was something that we planned. He came in and did an unbelievable job. He was fresh, was able to find good pockets, created opportunities and was fantastic, like [Andy] Polo, like all the players today played at top level.”
On the team’s reaction after conceding the opening goal…
“The team showed a strong mentality. I thought it was important that we were able to find the equalizer right after we got scored on. I think we had a little slow start, but then little-by-little we started picking it up. Moving the ball better, finding spaces and then I thought the second half, we had a tremendous performance and a well-deserved win.”
On the Timbers being one of the final four teams in the tournament…
“There is a great feeling for us to be able to continue to go forward. We’re taking one game at a time. Credit to the guys, they’ve been incredible. In training, in the games, the way we have managed the situations have been fantastic. Today was a special day because it was [Diego] Chara’s 300th match. So it was meaningful and very important for us that we wanted Chara to remember it in a very special way.”
On the Timbers being the only team left in the tournament that has won an MLS Cup…
[Through a translator] “I think most important is not what happened in the past, but what is coming in the future. We have to be ready for this match and we have to be ready for what is going on right now. Thank god, we came to this semifinal after great work from the guys. It’s been complicated. Certainly they have experience and the way they train. I’m very proud of them as a coach. They make me feel very proud and also, that experience they have collected throughout the years, players like [Sebastián] Blanco, [Diego] Valeri, like [Diego] Chara, and all of them, we have seen a great equilibrium in them and we strongly hope they continue this trend because Philadelphia’s going to be a very difficult team.”
On how rotating the starting lineup has benefited the team ahead of the semifinal…
“That’s what we have. We could have come into this match and complained and said ‘we have less days, we’re tired, we have players that haven’t rested enough.’ But it’s about figuring things out and the players coming and showing up. At the end of the day, all that you planned only works when at the end, you get a win. Today we were able to execute well and we saw that the guys all participated in a good way to help each other to go through this difficult match. We had to do it this way because we have less days to train, to rest. Now we’re going to have also less days. We have to figure it out, but the heart of the guys, the way they’re going about it has been fantastic.”
On Sebastián Blanco’s performance and contributions to the team…
“I echo what Diego [Chara] said. Seba [Sebastián Blanco] has been great in this tournament. We know what we have in him. He shows that every single practice, every single day when he’s with us. This year his mind is clear. He’s doing an excellent job and unique players like him, and others, like [Andy] Polo and everybody that we have that can make a difference when they’re playing. Because those are the moments when those players make the situations, these types of goals and plays, it’s when the team definitely achieves what we have achieved today. We’re very glad we have these types of players like Seba, like [Diego] Valeri, [Diego] Chara, Polo and others.”
On what he said to the team at halftime…
“We had a slow start. We had some moments in which we were a little bit exposed. We tried to make sure that we defended well, but then we opened ourselves a little bit. Then the [penalty kick] came in, which I have to look at again. The response was fantastic from the guys to be able to equalize and go into the locker rooms 1-1. That was very important. We had to lift up towards the end of the first half our play. The ball movement, the space that we were taking, but we had a plan in place and part of the plan guys executed. For example [Marvin] Loría. Loría played 45 minutes in which he did his job. He did what we asked him to do and it was perfect. We had a plan for [Diego] Valeri to come in at halftime. He came in and he contributed in a big way. [Andy] Polo, [Jarosław] Niezgoda, [Felipe] Mora, the guys that were already from the beginning. So it was a collective effort and a great performance from the guys in a well-executed plan.”
On Andy Polo’s special goal…
“It was a very important goal today. The execution was perfect. He’s been training that, he didn’t say it, but he’s been training everyday. So, it’s not something that just came today, he’s been putting the ball there in practice. When he came in, he came in like every other player with the right mentality and that goal was huge for us at that particular time. Gave us a lot more calmness. A moment of reassurance that we were having a very good second half.”
Portland Timbers midfielder Andy Polo
On his goal and celebration...
[Through translator] “Well first of all, we knew that we had to be ready if we were required to enter the game as a sub, so that’s exactly what we did. It was a great assist by Seba (Sebastián Blanco). In regards to my celebration, it was for my daughter, really. She was asking me for that celebration, and I just wanted to give that to her.
On the meaning of his goal to him...
[Through translator] “This goal means a lot to me because it gives me a lot of trust, but it also gives the team a lot of trust. You have a great group, and there is a lot of unity in the day-to-day activities that we see. So like I said before, this is not only going to give us trust as a group, but also looking ahead, because Philadelphia is going to be a difficult match.”
Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara
On Sebastián Blanco’s value to the team...
“Sebastián is a key player for us. He is having a great tournament, and he’s showing a great performance. I think right now he has a stronger mentality, and every game he’s showing his best performance.”
On his 300th appearance for the Portland Timbers...
“There’s no better way to play my 300th game with the same jersey, the Timbers jersey. I’m very happy, proud of this team. Now we have the opportunity to play in the semis against a great team, Philly (Philadelphia Union). I feel really happy to make my 300th game with the Timbers jersey.”
- Sebastián Blanco has been directly involved in seven (2g, 5a) of Portland’s 10 goals at the MLS is Back Tournament.
- Blanco registered an assist for a fifth consecutive match in the tournament.
- He has recorded an assist in all five matches at the tournament – the longest streak of games with an assist in Portland’s MLS history.
- Blanco is tied with Toronto FC’s Alejandro Pozuelo for the most assists (5) in the tournament.
- Blanco’s seven combined goals and assists are the second-most in the competition behind only LAFC’s Diego Rossi with eight.
- Jaroslaw Niezgoda recorded his first assist with the Timbers in the match.
- Niezgoda has a goal or an assist in three consecutive matches for Portland.
- Niezgoda became the seventh player to record an assist for Portland in the competition.
- Andy Polo recorded his first goal of tournament on Saturday. The goal was also his first of the 2020 season.
- Four players have tallied multiple goals for Portland in the competition: Blanco (2), Jeremy Ebobisse (3), Niezgoda (2) and Diego Valeri (2).
- Polo and Valeri are the first pair of substitutes to score in the same match for the Timbers in their MLS history.
- Four different players have scored goals as substitutes in the tournament – Ebobisse, Niezgoda, Polo and Valeri. In 2019, only three players scored as substitutes in MLS for the club.
- Blake Bodily made his Timbers debut in the match, entering the match a late-game substitute.
- Portland advanced to the semifinals of a competitive tournament for the 12th time as a club with the win on Saturday.