Savarese: Portland representing MLS in showdown with Liga MX giant Club America

When the Portland Timbers take the field at Providence Park for the first leg of their highly-anticipated Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal clash against Club America, they will do so with the pressure of representing more than their club.

It’s a responsibility head coach Giovanni Savarese said they take very seriously.

“We are motivated, ready, prepared and looking forward to this match coming up as we see this as a match where we’re not only representing the Portland Timbers, we’re representing Major League Soccer and US Soccer,” Savarese said in a video conference call Monday. “The guys are very motivated and ready to play.”

The challenge of facing Club America, one of the region’s most historic teams, is a great one as well, despite their current run of form of consecutive matches without a win for the side second only to surging Cruz Azul in Liga MX.

“You play to compete in these kind of matches,” Savarese said. “You want to earn the opportunity to play an be part of these games against teams like Club America. We know they have a good team, a good roster and they’ve been very competitive under [Santiago] Solari in Liga MX.

“We know they’re coming here with their best team. So, we feel very motivated, well prepared, calm, but we are very ready to understand the responsibility we have, what we represent in this match and that is beyond only our club and the players are ready for it and excited about these two games.”

Further complicating matters for the Timbers is that the opening leg Wednesday (10:30 pm ET | FS1, TUDN) is part of three matches in a span of eight days, which will test the club’s depth.

Savarese said he liked the response in a 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo FC from some of that squad rotation and will buoyed by the return of a few key cogs soon.

He said Jeremy Ebobisse is “very close” to returning, not so much for Sebastian Blanco, although the influential winger isn’t far away and Andy Polo is back from Peru after a visa holdup.

“I think he will come back quickly,” Savarese said of Polo. “He was training in Peru, he was trying to stay disciplined and come back in good shape. Of course, when you do not play for a long time it’s not easy and it was incredible how much time it took the whole situation for him to arrive back to Portland, but he’s here now. He’s happy to be back and we’ll see him contributing pretty soon.”

Forward Felipe Mora, who scored his first goal of the 2021 season in a Round of 16 5-0 aggregate defeat of CD Marathon, is ready for the challenge the two-legged series brings.

“It’s always extra motivation to play against big clubs like Club America, especially when you start at home and being able to play at home in front of our fans,” Mora said through a translator. “We just need to be ready and make sure we’re prepared for this big game.”