Timbers prepared for Club America
The first leg of the Concacaf Champions League is a grand opportunity for the Portland Timbers, but one where priorities must be balanced.
For example, with away goals being the first tiebreaker in the two-leg matchup with Mexico City's Club America, Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese and his staff must weigh the impact of goals conceded during Wednesday's match at Providence Park against the desire to win by as many goals as possible to position themselves well for the May 5 second leg at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
"Of course, you want to to make sure that your goal (against) stays at zero. But, also, you cannot enter into the match being afraid that you're going get scored on," Savarese said. "You have to enter into the match trying to execute your play, trying to play the way you think is going to prevent them from doing the things that they do best, and for you to expose the areas in which you think you can hurt them."
Wednesday's game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on FS1. A limited number of fans (15% of capacity) can attend the match despite Multnomah County reverting to extreme risk for COVID-19 transmission.
According to a prepared statement from the club, the Timbers and Thorns anticipate being able to operate at reduced capacity going forward despite the county's increased risk level. The statement reads:
"The Timbers and Thorns have safely hosted four matches this season at 15% capacity and we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our fans as to how safe they felt and how effectively our protocols were implemented. Masked, outdoor gatherings with social distance measures in place are widely considered safe, and we fully expect to continue hosting fans at a reduced capacity by the weekend of May 8-9."
The opportunity to take on a giant club from Mexico in the regional tournament is a first for the Timbers.
"We see this as a match in which not only are we representing Portland Timbers, we're representing Major League Soccer and U.S. soccer, so the guys are very motivated and ready to play," Savarese said.
"We know how important this tournament is and we just want to make sure we leave the Portland Timbers name up there," Portland forward Felipe Mora said through translation. "We need to be very responsible and very focused for the game."
Savarese noted that his roster still isn't as complete as he would like, given that the Timbers also play a weekend MLS match at FC Dallas before traveling to Mexico City. The arrival of Andy Polo, who until this week was in Peru awaiting clearance to come to the United States, will help. Savarese said Polo arrived in good shape, but acknowledged that training alone is different than being match sharp.
Savarese also said that forward Jeremy Ebobisse is getting close to returning from his thigh injury, but noted that Sebastian Blanco is not yet ready to play in a match and is coming along a bit slower than anticipated in the final stage of return-to-play from his ACL tear, though the team's official injury report lists Blanco as questionable.
"Seba (is) not as close as we expected, but is still not far away" from returning," Savarese said.
As of April 27, the injury report lists Ebobisse (thigh strain), Steve Clark (thigh strain), Aljaz Ivacic (sports hernia), Jaroslaw Niezgoda (ACL) and Ismaila Jome (Achilles tear) as out.
The coach said Tuesday that the club remains in the market to add a player in the wake of last week's Achilles injury to Jome.
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