Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese admitted to reaching a low point after the 6-2 defeat against rivals Seattle Sounders on August 15, forcing the team to internalize before slipping away from a playoff position.
Since that night, the Timbers managed to find their voice and win three out of their last five away matches. They’re 3-1-1 stretch inspired an upward trajectory on the Western Conference table at a crucial point in the season.
“We did a lot of work, we had a lot of conversations,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We felt we went a little bit away from who we are and we needed to make sure that each player understood back again 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, as you said, and believing that we had to bounce back from the game against Seattle, which still was always inside us. 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.”
The 2021 season has been especially difficult for the Timbers as they navigate through several substantial injuries that have altered the roster.
Savarese depended largely on USMNT midfielder Eryk Williamson before a season-ending ACL tear left him scrambling. Sebastian Blanco has returned to the pitch and trends toward a 90-minutes fitness after recovering from his own ACL injury, but remains a fragile figure.
Despite the innate challenges, the head coach believes their latest momentum may be the determining factor in reaching a postseason position.
“We have built up little by little, bits and pieces,” Savarese said. “We have become much better with the ball and we still have a lot more to continue to grow.
“But so far I think each win gives you more confidence, gives you more desire to continue to go on this path. I think the group is in a good place right now, but understanding as well that now we enjoy this victory today, but we have another tough team coming up already on Wednesday.”
The Timbers stand in fifth place on the Western Conference table with 33 points in 23 matches and a record of 10-3-10.