Giovanni Savarese says Portland Timbers have “built up again who we are” after stringing together a three-match winning run to boost their playoff aspirations.
The Timbers have defeated Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo and Vancouver Whitecaps in their last three games – each away from home – by an aggregate score of 5-0.
Portland hit a low point this time last month when losing 6-2 to Seattle at home, but they have since taken 10 points from the 15 on offer.
And head coach Savarese has pinpointed that heavy loss as the turning point for his side as they prepare to return to Providence Park on Wednesday for a clash with Colorado Rapids.
“We did a lot of work, we had a lot of conversations,” Savarese said. “We felt we went a little bit away from who we are and we needed to make sure that each player understood their role.
“In those conversations and the work on the field, we built up again who we are. It starts first with the morale, with the environment and believing that we had to bounce back from the game.
“That became a motivation for us to make sure that we were better. But in that process, there was a lot of work on the field that we needed to do and we see now the effect of that work.”
Portland have a three-point margin on the chasing pack for a Western Conference playoff spot, but they face a tricky test in their next game against high-flying Colorado.
The Rapids are unbeaten in eight matches, winning five of those, though they missed out on the chance to top the division at the weekend after being held by LA Galaxy.
“We were pretty decent in the last game in terms of our positioning and defensive shape,” Colorado boss Robin Fraser said. “I was a bit disappointed with how many times the ball was turned over.
“But overall, I feel pretty good about the performance. There’s just little things we can do a bit better, but I’m super proud of how hard this group works.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Portland Timbers – Dario Zuparic
The Timbers’ backline deserves huge credit for keeping three successive clean sheets, with Zuparic playing a full part in each of those matches.
The Croatian defender led the way with his five clearances in the most recent of those wins against Vancouver, while nobody could better his 94.1 per cent passing accuracy.
Colorado Rapids – Michael Barrios
Signed from FC Dallas in January, Barrios has been quite the acquisition for the Rapids thanks to his team-high six goals and three assists in 22 appearances.
The Colombian winger, on target in the Galaxy draw last time out with a leaping header, has now scored six or more goals in four of his seven seasons in MLS.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Colorado are unbeaten in three straight matches against the Timbers (W1 D2), winning the only meeting between the sides in 2020. This is the second three-match unbeaten run for Colorado against Portland after winning the first three MLS meetings from March 2011 to June 2012.
– The Timbers return home after a five-match road trip of which they won the final three matches without allowing a goal. The three-game road winning streak ties the longest in the Timbers’ regular season MLS history, while it’s the first time Portland has gone three straight road MLS matches without conceding.
– Colorado’s 1-1 draw with the Galaxy on Saturday extended their unbeaten run to eight games (W5 D3), which is their longest since a 15-game streak from April-July 2016. The Rapids have allowed just five goals during this run, not allowing more than one goal in any match.
– Vancouver’s Ranko Veselinovic scored an own goal for the only goal in Portland’s 1-0 win at the Whitecaps on Friday. It was the first own goal the Timbers had benefited from in over two years, with the previous two both coming against Colorado in the 2019 season.
– Samuel Grandsir’s equalising goal in the 80th minute for the Galaxy against Colorado on Saturday was the latest goal the Rapids have allowed this season. It was only the second time Colorado have conceded after the 75th minute, to go along with a 76th minute goal by Rubio Rubin for Real Salt Lake on July 24.