PORTLAND, ORE. – Preaching a mantra of taking only one game at a time, Giovanni Savarese has led the Portland Timbers to a 13-game unbeaten streak across all competitions.
That approach does not change in what is effectively a doubleheader at Banc of California Stadium, where the Timbers follow Sunday’s regular season match against LAFC (6 pm ET | ESPN - Full TV & Streaming Info) with a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal meeting on Wednesday.
“We have to focus 100 percent on Sunday,” Savarese said on Thursday. “We recognize that it's going to be a difficult match. Like every match in MLS. But, I think LAFC is one of the best teams in the league.”
The schedule quirk has not gone unnoticed, but Savarese is taking it in stride.
“It’s a coincidence we have to play the same team in the same place a few days apart,” Saverese continued, “But the guys are ready mentally to perform for those two matches,” before noting Sunday’s results might give Savarese and his staff “an idea” for Wednesday.
LAFC, like Portland, are undefeated at home with a 5-0-3 record, and the club’s dominant attack has been humming since the teams’ first meeting, a 2-1 Portland win at Providence Park on May 19th.
A week later, Adama Diomande made his LAFC debut. It has been Diomande’s blistering strike rate of nine goals in seven league matches that propelled his club go 4-1-2 along with 18 goals in that stretch.
“We knew they were going to be difficult to beat,” Savarese said. “We expect them to bring something bigger, or a bigger challenge because they are playing at home with their fans.”
Central to the Timbers' plan is Savarese’s belief that good defense isn’t merely the product of the back line, but by the whole team “all around the field.” The Timbers have allowed just eight goals and have also notched four clean sheets over the last ten games, including holding league-leading scorers Atlanta to a single goal at home.
This will be excellent test of the Timbers' defensive mentality going against an LAFC club who can score in so many ways, and have scored just one fewer goal than Atlanta.
“We’ve prepared for that,” Savarese continued. “We understand. We respect them. And we're ready to have this game.”
Once Sunday’s match has concluded, then Savarese and his staff can prepare for Wednesday’s quarterfinal.
“I think things will get clearer right after the match,” Savarese said. “I think we have a few scenarios. We have a few ideas. But the most important part is Sunday. That's the main focus.”