Giovanni Savarese - Portland Timbers - bench
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Giovanni Savarese: Portland Timbers getting three points isn't always pretty

PORTLAND, Ore. – Before the Portland Timbers hosted Nashville SC on Sunday evening at Providence Park, head coach Giovanni Savarese conveyed to ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman that a must-win situation awaited his team.

That early, urgent need was satisfied after a 1-0 victory over the expansion side followed a Week 1 loss at home against Minnesota United.

“The most important thing was for us to make sure that we get a win, to get three points,” Savarese said. “The guys battled to make sure that we achieved that.”

Portland’s offense sputtered for much of the match, managing just three shots as compared to Nashville’s 14. In fact, the Timbers didn’t once threaten visiting goalkeeper Joe Willis beyond the 24th minute.

Diego Valeri made his opportunity count in the 12th minute on a volley set up by Andy Polo’s header, though consistency was elusive.

“We looked dangerous in some moments when we tried to counter, but unfortunately we couldn’t find it in the second half,” Savarese said. “Better playing in the first half, but at the end [we got] three points that we very much needed at this moment.”

As the offense struggled, Savarese focused on how his team blanked Nashville one week removed from allowing three fast-break goals against Minnesota. No moment was more vital than goalkeeper Steve Clark robbing Anibal Godoy’s far-post bullet in the 69th minute, preventing an equalizer for the visitors.

“It felt great,” Clark said. “Credit to the defenders, they were fantastic tonight. … 1-0 shutout, what more could you want. It was great.”

Portland right back Chris Duvall remarked that there’s room for improvement from the backline. There were moments when Randall Leal and Hany Mukhtar looked especially dangerous for Nashville.

“It definitely wasn’t perfect,” Duvall said. “We still have a long way to go. We gave up some pretty good chances, especially late. We sat very deep and allowed them to have a little bit of the ball, but just to come home with the clean sheet is very important and it’s a stepping stone to whatever happens next.”

Even with the victory, midfielder Sebastian Blanco recognized that Portland have some cleaning up to do before their road match against the New England Revolution on March 15.

“To win it’s always important, also to get three valuable points at home,” Blanco said. “However, there is still a lot to improve on because we did not play a good match tonight. It is normally easier to improve after a win. The team still put a lot of effort out there today, but I think we still need to continue improving.”

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