"I'm ready": Portland Timbers star Sebastian Blanco hopeful of being fit for MLS Cup

Sebastian Blanco Portland

PORTLAND – Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco is hopeful of making his return to the field for Saturday's MLS Cup Final against NYCFC at Providence Park, the star attacker told reporters at a Thursday press conference.

Fielding questions beside Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese and teammate Diego Chara, Blanco didn't make any guarantees regarding his status for Saturday's match, but noted that he went through full training on Thursday and is feeling good physically.

Blanco has been rehabbing a hamstring injury he originally suffered during Portland's Western Conference Semifinal win over the Colorado Rapids on Thanksgiving Day. He was included in Portland's matchday squad for their subsequent Western Conference Final against Real Salt Lake but didn't need to appear as Portland cruised to a 2-0 victory.

"After Colorado, I was almost out," Blanco said. "So we talk about it almost being a miracle to arrive in this game. So be part of this team and be part of this game is very important to me. But of course, no matter what happens Saturday, if I can play or not, the important thing is to be ready to be part of what we need to support our team."

"I'm ready. I'm OK, I feel good, I've prepared myself for this game," he added later. "So I trained with my team today completely, I still of course have to have a conversation with Gio but no matter what happened the important thing is we're ready for the game. He will decide after but everything is good."

As for Savarese, the Timbers coach said he hasn't yet decided who will start in what's arguably the biggest game in club history.

"The preparations are, as always, trying to make sure that we put the best competitive team from the beginning, that we feel is the right team to be able to start and the guys that will be on the bench, we know that they're gonna be ready to perform when they come in," Savarese said. "Right now we're still are making the final decisions, because we have one more day in order to arrive to Saturday."

Blanco is one of Portland's most influential players, capable of stuffing the stat sheet with both goals and assists. The 33-year-old Argentine was dynamic as ever after returning midway through the 2021 season from a torn ACL, racking up 7g/7a in just 1,182 MLS minutes.

He's also scored two goals in 140 minutes during the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.

"Well, he's a game-changer," Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark said following Timbers training earlier in the day. "And you guys have seen that. And he's given everything – he's sleeping here, I think – to get fit. So you know, he's an amazing player. Having said that, we took care of business last weekend and he's even said to me, he said, 'Look, we have so many good players on this team. You know, I'm going to give all I can but we have good players.' So we're focused on the task at hand."