BEAVERTON, Ore. – When Giovanni Savarese was formally introduced as his team's new head coach, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson recalled the detailed scouting reports Savarese had prepared and brought with him to the interview.
On the brink of his MLS coaching debut, when Savarese was asked what, if anything, had surprised him in his first two months on the job, Savarese noted he had known what to expect and that the team already had a strong culture before he had arrived.
After giving it some thought, Savarese found his answer: "Maybe [what surprised me] is how well the groundskeeper kept the field perfect for when we had training. They are very good at what they do."
It was light-hearted banter, but it belied the how thorough Savarese is about leaving no detail overlooked.
"I live the game," Savarese said, calling himself a "high-intensity coach." And even as the team begins the season with a difficult stretch of five straight road matches, Savarese's focus is only on Sunday's season opening match against the LA Galaxy (10 pm ET | FS1 in US; TSN2 in Canada).
Fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, Savarese is the first multilingual Timbers head coach in the club's MLS era. With a roster that hails from over a dozen different countries, Savarese stressed the importance of having a direct line of communication with his players.
"I think it's important I can hear their problem directly and not through a translator," Savarese says. "I get to talk to the players on a one-v-one situation."
Savarese has kept his cards close to his vest, even on who he chooses to wear the captain's armband permanently. Savarese declined to elaborate any further than to state that incumbent Liam Ridgewell will be his captain on Sunday.
One position battle looming from the preseason is at striker. Fanendo Adi is back after being sidelined the final months of last season with an injury and Samuel Armenteros a newcomer enjoying a strong start with his new team in preseason.
Savarese says he's glad to have both players – there is a possibility he could play both forwards at the same time – but says the team has position battles at every position, something that has hurt the Timbers in previous seasons when a key player has gotten hurt and the backup was not quite up to snuff.
"It's important to have the battles for position," Savarese says. "It's good because you know that you have depth."