Timbers training, 11.20.20
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Reinforcements on the way: Savarese talks about player options for playoff match against Dallas

After a month of seeing his team’s depth thinned by injuries and potential absences, Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said he was “hopeful that all of” Dairon Asprilla, Jeremy Ebobisse, Felipe Mora and Andy Polo will be available for selection when the Timbers open their Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs by hosting Dallas in Round One on Sunday night at Providence Park (7pm PT, ESPN).

Asprilla was been reported to be under review for a possible suspension for a foul on Los Angeles FC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer in Portland’s regular-season finale. Ebobisse has missed the last five Timbers games while recovering from a concussion sustained in a home game against LAFC, while Mora and Polo were subject to a potential quarantine period after returning from international play with Chile and Peru, respectively.

On Friday, Savarese described the team as “very positive” the four attackers will be available this weekend.

“[Their availability] is something we had as a question mark last week,” Savarese said, “But at the moment, we are very positive and very hopeful that they will be available. So we'll just have to see how things go, and we're preparing accordingly. But so far, we're very hopeful that's going to be the case.”

Asprilla returned from the season-ending injury list in the Timbers’ penultimate game against the Colorado Rapids and played 25 minutes over the season’s final week. Ebobisse (eight) and Mora (seven) have combined for 15 goals this season, while Polo won Goal of the Tournament at the summer MLS is Back Tournament and was nominated for the same regular-season Goal of the Year honor for his Oct. 28 strike against the LA Galaxy.

His availability, along with Mora’s, had been considered unlikely when the players left for South America nearly two weeks ago; however, isolation from COVID-19 risks during private flights back to Oregon may allow each to be available against Dallas. According to Savarese, each returned to Portland on Thursday and have rejoined their team at training.

“It's a good thing that MLS did a great job to make sure that they tried to bring everyone back from the international matches ...,” Savarese said, “We've been working with [the players] to make sure that we get them to the best spot in order for them to feel comfortable and fresh to play [against Dallas] …”

The Timbers are without two key attacking components, with Designated Players Sebastián Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda each out for the remainder of the season after anterior cruciate ligament surgeries.

“It was something very important for us to be able to get those [Mora and Polo] back and available to play,” Savarese said, explaining the process behind his internationals’ return. “They're here already. They're training. Of course, we have followed protocols and do things the right way, but we are very content that they are able to come back to try to play as quick as they did.”