Portland Timbers are not where they would have hoped to have been at this stage of the season, but coach Giovanni Savarese knows Sunday’s rivalry match against Seattle Sounders could be key in his team turning the corner.
The Timbers have taken four points from their last two games to snap a two-match losing run.Their early season form has been inconsistent, and that has seen them sit in sixth, 11 points behind Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City.
Savarese pointed to coronavirus restrictions, which have now mostly been lifted, as part of the problem, while he is relishing playing in front of a capacity crowd for Sunday’s clash with the Sounders.
“When, from the beginning of the season, you are limited, and you cannot even have 20 players on the bench total when traveling, then finally when you have the ability to make selections… (it) is (an option) that I did not have basically the entire year,” Savarese said.
“The fact that we have survived in accumulating so many important points – sometimes playing well, sometimes being more pragmatic – is a credit to the players, because have an opportunity now, in the second part of the season, to make a statement.
“We remember last time we played Seattle in our home. We had a very, very good match. We played very well, and we probably deserved more that day. But I continue to say all the time, it’s not what you deserve.
“Especially this (match), there’s a different energy. (The energy) has accumulated even more so.”
Seattle, meanwhile, are looking for new assistant coaches after the departures of Djimi Traore and Gonzalo Pineda.
“We can manage, but it would be ideal if we would get a guy in after the road trip,” Brian Schmetzer said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Portland Timbers – Dairon Asprilla
Dairon Asprilla is Portland’s second-highest scorer this season with four goals, though his penalty in the win over Real Salt Lake last time out was his first goal since June.
Seattle Sounders – Raul Ruidiaz
Beginning with the 2018 playoffs, Raul Ruidiaz has scored (eight) or assisted (two) on 10 of the Sounders’ last 14 goals against Portland, including seven of eight goals in Portland (five goals, two assists) during that time.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Seattle beat Portland, 2-1, at Providence Park in the first meeting between the rivals this season. The Sounders have won three of their last four away matches against the Timbers (L1) after winning just three of the first 14 MLS encounters in Portland (D3 L8, including playoffs).
– The Timbers beat Real Salt Lake, 3-2, in their last match, but conceded multiple goals for the eighth time already this season.
– The 29 goals Portland has allowed through 17 matches are tied for the second-most at the midway point of a season for the Timbers behind only the 31 they allowed in their first MLS season in 2011.
– The Sounders have collected just four points over their last five matches (W1 D1 L3) including going winless in three straight. Seattle has dropped more points in the last five games (11) than it did in its first 13 games this season (10 – W8 D5 L0).
– Portland has recorded at least a primary assist on each of its last 11 non-penalty goals dating back to June 23. The last time Portland had a longer such streak was a run of 19 straight assisted non-penalty goals from June to September 2017.