Portland Timbers Head Coach Giovanni Savarese was part of his team's season-ending press conference on Thursday, December 3, 2020. Here are the transcribed highlights from his 50-minute session, which also included the team's President of Soccer, Gavin Wilkinson.
Savarese's opening remarks...
"Definitely, coming out from the MLS is Back Tournament after a great performance from the team, we were still hungry, we were not satisfied. We wanted to compete in the season and try to win MLS Cup.
"Watching the [remaining MLS playoff] games has been very difficult.
"In a match in which we completely dominated, played very well, [FC Dallas] defended deep. Ultimately, we found the goal that should’ve given us the opportunity to go through. [We] lost it when we allowed them to score that goal. The only moment they provided a threat. That’s why it’s more difficult. We were hoping we could play Seattle right after.
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"In everybody’s mind, everyone involved, we didn’t get enough. I think that’s why we're hungrier. We can’t wait for next year. We’re looking forward to the new challenges. We want to compete internationally to bring Portland to higher competition. That will be a great thing next year.
"There were so many good things after we reflect on 2020 in a very difficult year. We know all the things we have to deal with, so much sadness, so many people that are not here with us. It was a tough year, with injuries and the things we had to go through. The guys kept themselves very strong mentally. We always looked at the positive side. Even in that match against Dallas, missing two Designated Players, no Dairon [Asprilla].
"But [Blake] Bodily having the chance to come into the game, be able to take a PK in a crucial moment for the organization. So many positives. Great locker room. It’s been a year trying to get better and better in our style of play; getting closer to how I want to see the team play. This year we were very close to that, we were able to score goals in many different ways.
"We’re looking forward to doing things next year to improve how we play, bring in some players. Overall, a positive year. In the stadium, we feel more secure. We restored our confidence at home in how we played the last few matches. We’re going to be even better next year."
On the Timbers' greatest success, failure in 2020...
"The greatest success, [it] is difficult to put it in one, because there were so many great things in a very challenging and difficult year that I feel so proud of the team, organization and players. The mentality. Through that mentality we have been able to win MLS is Back, we have been able to stay the course and be competitive through many challenges and matches. I’m sure many teams celebrated when we came out of the playoffs. For me, the mentality in the locker room of all the players this year is the biggest thing. The mentality goes with the discipline to make sure everyone sacrifices to avoid COVID.
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"Disappointed, anything short of winning MLS Cup. We want to win all the time. We want to give Portland and our fans every trophy possible that we can. Not making it to MLS Cup is short. Yes, we can say positive things [about] how we played: second-most goals in the league; third year [consecutively] we make the playoffs. But the most important thing is to make it always to MLS Cup. Not making it doesn’t make us too content. The biggest disappointment in this year, because we believe in this group to make it all the way to Cup."
On the status of Sebastián Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda...
"Seba is doing very well, he really is working hard, he’s been very very positive. I think by March or April, we hope he’s going to be ready to be able to play. He’s working very hard. I believe we will have him available at that time or sooner. He’s trying to beat any stat on that return.
"Niezgoda will be more of a midseason return. There were more things there, more work to make sure he comes back healthy and strong.
"We definitely miss both of them. Seba for basically for the entire second half of the season. It will be a fresh return for them to come back."
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On playing from June on without fans at games...
"It definitely is something that we missed this year.
"Our fans are unique. Our fans are special. When they are not there, it’s a different energy. For me, the best fans that MLS has ... We miss them in a big way.
"One thing we tried to make sure stayed in the players' minds: understand that those fans are not there in the stands, but they’re in their homes watching the team. We have to bring them joy in a difficult year. We have to bring them happiness. Make sure our fans feel so proud at home.
"In our minds, our fans were very close to us. We didn’t hear them, we didn’t feel the energy, but we knew that they were always with us. Seeing them in the matches on the screen was a good thing.
"It’s been so difficult not to be able to continue to be in the run to MLS Cup, because we wanted to give everything to our fans. But hopefully next year we can see them back in the stadium, because Providence Park is not the same without them."