Back in August, Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese raised eyebrows in the Rose City when he used roughly the same lineup for a three-game, eight-day road trip spanning three time zones. The Timbers lost all three matches, allowing nine goals and scoring only twice.
The results were gruesome, but for Savarese, it became a learning experience undoubtedly not far from his mind entering last Sunday’s match on Decision Day presented by AT&T.
With a playoff spot clinched and with Portland unlikely to move up the standings, Savarese did a full squad rotation against Vancouver, resting his likely starters ahead of what proved to be Wednesday's 2018 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round game against FC Dallas (9:30 pm ET | UniMás, TSN, TVAS).
“We wanted to get the result,” Savarese explained following the 2-1 loss. “It was more important that a lot of the guys rested and they are all fit to be able to play.
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“We have a full group, a full army, ready to be able to play and perform Wednesday. We’ve been working with a separated group, and now we’re going to try to make the right decisions in the next few days before we go to Dallas.”
“These are always kind of tough situations,” said goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. “We are rested. Our guys are rested and [FC Dallas] just played a tough game in Colorado. I think that we got a tie there early in the year. We got a good result against them at home, so I think it’s positive.”
Said midfielder Andrés Flores, the 16th Timber to contribute a goal in 2018: “It’s going to be tough for sure, but the playoffs are a different thing. All the effort that we put during the season, now it’s the reward that we’re in the playoffs. Now we have to go down there and try to play our game and try to win it.”
Portland may be unbeaten in their last four matches overall against FC Dallas (1-0-3), but Savarese is leaving nothing to chance.
“We have to focus, concentrate, and be ready,” he said. “FC Dallas are a tough team, but any team that we’re going to face is going to be a difficult game. Now we prepare and we’ll be ready to play.”