The Portland Timbers had a stern road test on Saturday night, coming away with a point against a New England Revolution squad that's been in the playoff mix all season. Afterward, coach Giovanni Savarese assessed his team's performance positively as the Timbers look toward the home stretch of the 2018 campaign.
"We knew it was going to be physical," Savarese said of the contest at Gillette Stadium. "This is a very difficult place to play because they press the entire match. They are very athletic. They made the game very, very choppy and difficult. They never give up.
"And for us, we had to match up physically, and we did," he added. "And that was the most important part. The guys gave everything, especially in the second half. I thought we were solid in the first half, but in the second half, we gave everything we had in order to be able to at least get a point.”
The result, combined with the Seattle Sounders' and Vancouver Whitecaps' wins this weekend, leaves Portland in the middle of a Cascadia playoff sandwich heading into their final eight matches. The Timbers currently sit sixth in the West, tied on points with a fifth-place Sounders squad that's managed a higher goal differential. The Whitecaps are a point behind both in seventh, but have a game in hand.
Savarese also said the performance proved his decision to rotate his squad a wise one.
"We did the right thing, and the team showed their character" in relying on some players who don't regularly feature as starters.
Lawrence Olum, who reflexively sidefooted in the 70th-minute equalizer on a corner kick, also believed the result a favorable one.
“This is a big point," he said. "Traveling seven, eight hours on a flight just to get here, and the conditions of the field. And the team we were playing against we knew we had to get something on this trip. I think this one point puts us in a place, in a playoff spot, and we just have to keep going.”
Seven of the Timbers' remaining eight matches are against Western Conference opponents, including a September 29 showdown hosting top-seeded FC Dallas, and a Decision Day matchup at the Vancouver Whitecaps on October 28. Their only cross-conference matchup is at home against Columbus Crew SC, a team that figures large in Timbers lore.
But as Olum notes, they're not about to look past next Saturday's task at home against the Colorado Rapids (10:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info). “We want to make home, our home field, like a fortress. Every time we play there we want to get three points. So this is a step for us to show that the guys have commitment, work rate and team effort. If we do the same thing at home good things will happen and we will try to get three points.”