Timbers set for big opportunity
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese began his media availability Tuesday by expressing condolences and prayers for those impacted by Monday's deadly train wreck in Mexico City.
Savarese said the Timbers, who face Club America at 7:15 p.m. PT Wednesday (FS1 television) in the decisive second leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, are staying at a hotel near the site of the collapse of elevated tracks and heard sirens throughout Monday night.
Turning his thoughts to the opportunity ahead Wednesday, Savarese said Jeremy Ebobisse will be among the players active for the game. Ebobisse played a few minutes at the end of Saturday's loss at FC Dallas, his first minutes since suffering a preseason quad injury.
"He will be a possible option to play, and that's very positive that we're starting to get some players back," Savarese said. One player not yet quite ready to return is Sebastian Blanco.
"Unfortunately, Seba, as I said many times, is close, but still not quite there, yet," Savarese said.
In addition to injured players, including goalkeeper Steve Clark, Portland central defender Dario Zuparic is suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Portland's available first-choice players all got at least some rest during Saturday's 4-1 loss at FC Dallas as Savarese rotated his lineup to have players fresh for Wednesday.
Entering this week, no MLS team has clinched a CCL series in Mexico after drawing (six series defeats) or losing (five series defeats) in the first leg at home. Columbus is carrying a 2-2 draw to Monterrey for a Wednesday match (5 p.m., FS2, TUDN). Toronto is down 3-1 to Cruz Azul entering a Tuesday match (7:15 p.m., FS1) at Mexico City.
Portland's Wednesday match takes place at storied Estadio Azteca. But the Timbers won't get the full experience at the home of Mexico's national team because no spectators are allowed as a result of COVID-19 protocols.
One challenge the Timbers cannot avoid: competing for 90 minutes against a tough opponent at 7,200 feet elevation.
Savarese said the historic venue will not distract his players.
"We like the challenge. We're up for it. Ready to be able to perform," he said. "We feel that going through against a club like Club America would give us the certainty that we are definitely building as a club, as a league, as a country in soccer. That's the responsibility that we have."
The Timbers can take some confidence from a strong second-half performance in last week's first leg at Providence Park. After a shaky first half, the Timbers were more assertive and created multiple half-chances before Felipe Mora's stoppage time penalty tied the score.
Timbers midfielder Diego Chara said that the Timbers need to continue to play with the confidence they showed in that second half.
The math: Portland must score at least one goal. A 1-1 draw would be broken with penalty kicks after 90 minutes. Any draw with two or more goals and the Timbers advance on the away-goals tiebreaker.
The winner between the Timbers and Club America will advance to face either Philadelphia or Atlanta United in the semifinals. Those two-leg contests are scheduled for August and September. Atlanta is at Philadelphia Tuesday (5 p.m., FS1), with the Union in command up 3-0.
A Portland win against Club America would guarantee a MLS team plays in the CCL final on Oct. 28.
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