A couple of weeks into training camp, Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese expressed satisfaction with the fitness levels and work rate he’s seen from his players.
He also said the mindset, both from returning players and from draft picks and youth academy players who are training with the Timbers, has been good to see.
The more experienced Timbers, Savarese said, are “doing the work that we want and everybody came in to fight for a position, to work hard to push us to the levels that we want.”
The focus is to be ready for the Feb. 25 season opener against Sporting Kansas City. A slow start to the 2022 season was the reason the Timbers missed the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in Savarese’s tenure in Portland.
After one week in Phoenix, Arizona, the Timbers are spending a few weeks at their training facility in Beaverton. They will head to California for preseason matches on Feb. 12 against the LA Galaxy, Feb. 15 against Toronto and Feb. 18 against New York City.
Savarese said last season’s slow start wasn’t a reflection of poor work in preseason, but injuries that limited players.
While new addition Evander, along with Sebastian Blanco and Felipe Mora, are in the process of working up to full fitness, Savarese said the squad is much better off now than it was beginning the 2022 season on short rest.
“What is good this year is that ... we don’t have that many injuries,” Savarese said. “If you remember last year, we had a lot of the guys out at the beginning. Now we have more guys that are you know, practicing.”
One point of emphasis, Savarese said, is “to make sure that we have a little more accountability in in the locker room in everyday working to (meet) the expectation and the guys have done a very good job every practice to bring the right energy to make sure that we get what we want every practice.”
As for how he enforces that accountability piece, Savarese said: “The simple things are very important. Making sure that we are always on time. Making sure that everybody follows the rules. Make sure that, as soon as we do an exercise, we can (do it) the best that we can make it. If we do the basic things right, then from that point, you can build up.”
Savarese said it’s critical that players who have been through five seasons with him aren’t complacent. The coach said he hasn’t seen that from any of the veteran players.
“The good thing is that we know that we have a lot of good people. Our locker room was a good locker room,” Savarese said.
The infusion of new faces, especially one like Brazilian midfielder Evander, raises the competitiveness of everyone, Savarese said.
Timbers fans will have to wait to see most of their squad in action, but three Timbers played on Jan. 28 in a scoreless friendly between the United States and Colombia. Eryk Williamson started and played a solid first half in midfield for the United States. Williamson also played about a half-hour on Jan. 25 in a USA 2-1 exhibition loss to Serbia. For Colombia against the United States, Juan David Mosquera went the distance at right back and played well, and Santiago Moreno played 25 minutes of the second half on the wing.
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