The Timbers will enter the MLS Cup Final for the third time since joining the Garber Tour in 2011. Saturday’s decisive game against New York City FC will be a special sensation, as it will be the first to be played in Portland.
The Oregon reps won’t be the underdogs this time, they’re the ones who got their hands on the championship in 2015 at The Crew turf in Columbus. This time around, the energy of fans huddled in Providence’s small garden could give wings to Giovanni Savarese’s forces.
“I think when the team plays at home, we say they are the favorites right away. We don’t think we are better than them, but we will do everything we can to prove it. People may say we are the favorites because we are at home, but football will speak for itself,” said the coach. Wisely to the media on Tuesday.
It’s half a surprise to see Timbers again at this point in the competition. Portland has always been one of the top teams in Major League Soccer, but it had to get rid of strong opponents to get to the final.
“It’s easy when everything is fine, everyone is smiling and happy. When things go in the opposite direction, you see the real character of the squad, the family. This group coped with that very well in the first half of the season, because we’ve been through a lot” .
Of the Eastern Conference teams, the Timbers haven’t faced many of them lately. They only passed the Philadelphia Union en route in May, and the trial went rather poorly as they were disqualified 3-0.
Savarese and his guys haven’t faced off in NYCFC in a year and a half, since the “MLS Is Back” quarterfinals, which ended up beating the Timbers.
“It’s going to take a lot more work; we’ll be watching a lot of shots to get to know them. The other teams, as we’ve known them, have been explained to us by goalkeeper Steve Clarke. […] You have to understand their inclinations. They are a great team. It’s training that can hurt you.”
“We will have to study them further. New York has a good team, good players and a good system,” added defender Bill Tuiluma, who will be especially wary of Valentin Castellanos and Maxi Morales on Saturday.
New York City FC has come of age
The New York City side might not have David Villa, Frank Lampard or Andrea Pirlo in their squad, but without those big names the team reached the cup final this year.
For a club that has only been in Major League Soccer for seven years, New York City already has a rich history. Despite its young core, we can finally say that the Big Apple formation reached maturity in 2021.
“We’ve had a lot of success reaching the playoffs six times in a row. Coach Ronnie Della admitted to the media after the Eastern Group’s victory over Philadelphia Union on Sunday, we haven’t dealt well with the pressure before, and we’re just starting to do it. I think learning, for For the whole club, to win matches and to do so when there is pressure, is something that can be learned over time.”
Will the group be able to maintain their focus until the final, when they face the Portland Timbers, a more experienced club?
“They’ve been in this final before, not us. We’ll do everything we can to get the energy for this match and if we leave everything on the pitch, we can beat anyone”, stressed the Norwegian driver.
Among this mature group, the attack is the most impressive. If it wasn’t for Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos to score, Jesus Medina and Ismael Tagouri-Shrady could easily rock the ropes. Maxi Morales, 34, is still one of the best passers in the ring.
All players will have to join forces to ensure that New York wins.
“I asked guys to take advantage of it, because it’s big,” Della said. Winning in the United States is difficult. Everyone has the same chance and there are 28 teams… It’s crazy. What we’ve done so far is incredible, and the biggest meeting is on Saturday.”
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