Whatever hangover the Portland Timbers felt after their Wednesday loss at Real Salt Lake was apparently left in Utah, with neither head coach Giovanni Savarese nor winger Yimmi Chara reporting any lingering regret after the team’s five-game winning streak was snapped by their 2-1 loss.
“These are the types of situations you know you’re going to face, because that’s soccer,” Chara explained. “We know these are the types of results you have to leave in the past. We’re going to face what’s coming in the same way, not face it as if anything is wrong, because we know we have an opportunity to go out and win this weekend.”
“We have to bounce back,” Savarese said. “We have to make sure the guys recover. Now, we have a tough match against [Los Angeles FC]. [They’re] always difficult games when we play against each other. We're preparing accordingly to have the players ready to play them at home.”
Sunday marks the third meeting of the season between Portland and LAFC, albeit the first at Providence Park (7pm PT, ROOT SPORTS). In July, the teams met in the early stages of the MLS is Back Tournament, with the 2-2 draw helping the Timbers claim first place in the teams’ group. Last month, LAFC earned a 4-2 win at Banc of California Stadium, posting a scoreline Savarese feels is not indicative of how his team performed.
“I think we played very well in that match.,” he said. “I think we had 15, 10 minutes in which we allowed them to be dangerous and score the goals that they scored -- those three goals at that particular time. Then we kind of gave a little bit of the game away to them. It made it a little more difficult for us.”
The loss came during a time where consistency, complete performance and full 90 minutes became buzzwords around the Timbers, particularly as it concerned the team’s defending. Since then, Portland has gone 5-1-1, climbing into a tie on points at the top of the Western Conference, and are averaging 0.86 goals allowed per game.
In that same time, LAFC is 3-3-0, have fallen six points back of the West’s leaders, and are giving up 1.50 goals per game.
“I know that they have some missing players,” Savarese said, “but nevertheless, they're still a very good team.”
Reigning Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player Carlos Vela continues to miss time with a knee injury. Midfielder Marc-Anthony Kaye and defender Tristan Blackmon have also missed time, while Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez, Diego Pacalios and Jose Cifuentes are all with their national teams during South American World Cup qualifying.
Despite the massive changes to their starting lineup, LAFC has persisted with the same approach, with the team’s attacking style producing a league-leading 39 goals (in 24 games).
“We know them very well,” Savarese said. “They've tweaked some little things with this group that they have, but we know them very well.
“We have to make sure that we're good with the ball. We have to make sure that we create the moments that we need in order to put ourselves in a good situation and be able to score some goals that are going to be very important at the beginning; to make sure that we continue to grow in confidence; but the most important thing is to be able to understand the things they do.”
If that understanding pays off, it could consign LAFC to the middle of the West for the rest of the campaign. With only six regular-season games remaining after Sunday, Portland would move to 33 points on the season with a victory, and they would be nine points ahead of LAFC. With a Timbers loss, though, last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners could be back in contention for one of the conference’s top two seeds, with the gap between them and the Timbers trimmed to only three points.
“It is important for us to make sure that we can have a complete performance,” Savarese said, rekindling the theme, “that we are good on the ball, that we can move the ball the way we want to move the ball, [and] that we stick with the plan that we're preparing for this match.”