Sometimes the most dangerous opponent can be one that has nothing to lose.
The Portland Timbers are well aware of that reality as they look ahead to the return leg of their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 series against Honduran side CD Marathon, which currently has a 2-2 aggregate deadlock. But with two away goals from Leg 1, the Timbers sit in the driver's seat.
Ahead of Leg 2 at Providence Park on Tuesday (8 pm ET | FS1, TUDN), head coach Giovanni Savarese said he feels his team is prepared for another difficult CCL fixture and excited to play in front of a limited-capacity crowd.
"We expect a difficult match," Savarese said on his Monday video call with reporters. "We know that Marathon is coming here with nothing to lose and to give everything to try to give us a difficult game. We saw in Honduras that these matches are tough. They're difficult. We don't expect anything different here from Marathon. We know that they're going to come eager to perform and we're prepared.
"We're prepared to play at Providence Park, finally we'll have some fans. So we're very excited for that and we have our plan in place to try to perform and give everything that we have in order to take care of business at home and that's the mentality we have going into this match."
Marathón vs. Portland Timbers - Game Highlights
The Timbers earned goals in Honduras through Felipe Mora and a Diego Valeri free kick, but relinquished the lead both times to leave the series tied on aggregate.
While Portland midfielder Eryk Williamson conceded that they may be perceived favorites heading into Tuesday's rematch, he noted that defensive lapses create plenty to be fine-tuned.
"We can't be complacent," Williamson said. "We want to play every game to win and I think this is another game where we're going to go out and know we're in a good spot, but I think at the end of the day we wanted and expected a little better down in Honduras. So I think it's just another game to build on it. It's another chance to go out and become a good unit together so we can get away with another win here or maybe another result to move onto the next round. But it's this game first and I think we have all our eyes on it."
Savarese echoed that sentiment, saying that the matchup's high stakes aren't lost on his players. Their quest for becoming the first MLS team to win the modern-day CCL tournament remains on the line.
"I think the result in Honduras is a good result if we do what we have to do here at home," Savarese said. "What I can tell you for sure is that the guys are prepared, they're ready. They can't wait to play tomorrow, so there's not going to be any complacency. There's an understanding of the magnitude of this match and how difficult it's going to be and the guys are ready and eager to perform.
"So, I don't think that will be a worry for us because I know the way the guys have practiced and the way the guys feel about this match. The guys are ready to perform and to play."