Since returning to the Rose City, however, the Timbers have won two in a row – and their coach believes they’re heading in the right direction, as underlined by Sunday’s impressive defeat of league leaders New York City FC.
“We knew it was going to be a big challenge,” first-year head coach Giovanni Savarese said in his postgame remarks. “I have been very happy with the discipline, the maturity of our team in how they approached the match and especially how they worked through the entire match to get a complete result.”
Portland were happy to concede the lion’s share of possession to NYCFC, defending in numbers and picking their moments to break out on the counterattack with menace.
“They’re a very good team. I think everyone has seen that this season,” said center back Liam Ridgewell, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since a poor outing in PTFC’s 4-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls on March 10.
“They like to move the ball a lot. They like to move positions a lot. They’ve got a very good attacking front three and they’ve got people who can provide the ball. It was big for us to try and stay with our runners and keep it compact. They saw a lot of the ball, but they didn’t really get anywhere, so that was our main objective.”
Calling NYCFC “a fantastic team,” Savarese hailed the Timbers’ unity and organization in stifling the visitors, and also praised the support of the Providence Park faithful.
“Home is different because of our fans,” Savarese said, “but we've been progressing game after game.
“From the game [at] Dallas to Orlando, we have been growing every match. The past match against Minnesota and today, finally, a complete match in which the team was very disciplined. But we're home. Our fans are fantastic here. They are that extra energy that we need on a constant basis and it's incredible to play at home.”
Savarese believes that a signature win against a strong opponent will lift his squad as they head into a bye week.
“It gives us a belief that what we are doing is the right thing,” he said. “It is showing the players that when they are coming together to the same goal, we can achieve amazing things because we have a great group.
“We have to continue to work. This is a long season. This is just one step. A very important step, but it is just one step.”