Amid the Portland Timbers' early season fixture congestion, the injuries are piling up.
Portland entered the season without two of their three Designated Players due to long-term injuries suffered last season, as Sebastian Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda are yet to make their season debut. With a run to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, the club have played nine games in all competitions over the last five weeks, including five in little more than two weeks from April 24-May 9.
Head coach Gio Savarese updated the club's already lengthy list of absentees on Thursday, noting that goalkeeper Jeff Attinella suffered a season-ending injury in the club's match against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, while stalwarts Diego Chara and Larrys Mabiala each suffered sprained hamstrings, likely keeping them out a few games.
“It’s a difficult moment for us," Savarese told media. "We haven’t been able to get the results we’re looking for, it was difficult to endure five matches in 15 days. I’m very proud in how the players have given everything that they have to stay competitive. I’m not one that looks for excuses. ... Every player that is available is 100% ready to play. We're still going to be competitive, we're content with the intensity we're bringing to the matches."
A source told MLSsoccer.com that Blanco suffered a setback in his quad as he rehabs from an ACL tear. His new timetable to return is late May or early June.
Mabiala, Chara and Attinella joins the likes of Ish Jome, Cristhian Paredes, Renzo Zambrano and more already on the sideline. Jeremy Ebobisse, who made his first start of the year on Sunday following his own hamstring injury, is striking a similarly defiant tone as his coach.
"It's tough to balance," Ebobisse said. "You feel for the people who are hurt, when I was hurt my teammates were so supportive. On my end, I knew I had to be supportive of the team because it's next man up. Whoever is hurt, someone has to be ready to fill that spot. ... We need to put the club in the position where we're not finding reasons to not be successful. CCL at the beginning of the year, injuries. There's always something in your way, you have to fight though it."
This weekend provides no rest for the weary. Portland travel to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (10 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), who currently reside at second in the Western Conference after a handful of games. The Quakes, of course, are known for their high-octane, high-intensity system.
“Every time you play San Jose, regardless, you know you’re going to find a hard-working team who gives their all," Savarese said. "You know what to expect."
Soon there will be a bit of respite.
The Timbers have three more games in May, all of which a normal week's rest between, before entering MLS's mini-break at the beginning of June where they will go just under three weeks without a match. While the club are looking forward to a bit of a break to get guys back and reassess the situation, they are still firmly focused on the three games ahead of them.
“We’re a strong team, I’m very proud of the group I have," Savarese said. "We need everybody (back). But we still have to manage these three matches, we have to make sure the players have the right mentality. We want to win. We want the points.”
“I don’t think there’s additional pressure, we put pressure on ourselves when we step on the field," Ebobisse added. "This team needs to win. We’re used to winning trophies. We want to compete for every game, in every competition we’re in. The goal is to get three points in each of these games.”