PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers looked a little different during their 2020 MLS preseason preparations. Mainly, head coach Giovanni Savarese placed an emphasis on being more aggressive, especially in the final third.
While the Timbers are coming off a 3-1 preseason defeat to the New England Revolution on Saturday, Savarese said he was still pleased with what he saw in flashes as his team works through implementing the new philosophy.
“We look dangerous,” Savarese said. “We look dangerous going forward. We look dangerous when we have the ball. We’re dominant in many, many moments.”
One of the reasons Savarese could opt for an aggressive approach is personnel. There are some new faces wearing Timbers' colors this season, including Yimmi Chara, who joined the club Jan. 2 as a Designated Player from Atletico Mineiro. Yimmi is reunited with his brother Diego, a mainstay of Portland's midfield since 2011, and looks ready to contribute.
“He’s doing well. I think he’s ready,” Diego Chara said of his brother. “He came from a big injury and now has the opportunity to play, and I think he’s ready to play.”
Yimmi often showed impressive speed and footwork on offense during the Timbers' preseason tournament this past week. Those qualities should make him valuable, especially opposite Sebastian Blanco.
“What he showed is that he’s very technical and that his movements in short spaces are good and long spaces are good,” Portland captain Diego Valeri said. “You can use him even as a 10 sometimes with me as a second 10, sometimes as a winger.”
Back in January, Savarese raved about Yimmi’s versatility. That flexibility expands to the entire team and offers a tactical advantage that Portland hopes to exploit.
“I think we saw it today towards the end,” Savarese said. “Not only Yimmi, but everybody else...This team is a team that is flexible, has flexibility tactically and we just have to make sure that we get it right.”
Valeri noted that while the new players have impressed, the adjustment to playing with new teammates doesn’t happen instantly. But with the season opener against Minnesota United – who they lost to 4-2 last Wednesday – on March 1 (7:30 pm ET | FS1, MLS LIVE on DAZN), the adjustment has to happen sooner rather than later.
“It doesn’t happen overnight, but you hope obviously at this level you have to do it as soon as possible, and with the least amount of time possible,” Valeri said. “And during that process obviously getting results, which is what we need starting now next week.”