It seems like just yesterday the Portland Timbers were hoisting up hardware.
In fact, it was only a month ago when Giovanni Savarese coached the Timbers to winning the MLS is Back Tournament inside the bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Now, the MLS regular season has resumed and the team that outlasted the league inside the bubble looks lost defensively outside of it. The Timbers have gained just one point in three games since the MLS restarting the regular season and conceded at least three goals in every game.
Their lone point came in a 4-4 draw to Real Salt Lake where they gave up not one, but two stoppage time goals beyond the 90th minute to blow the lead.
To make matters more troubling, all three games have happened at home inside Providence Park, albiet without fans.
"“We still expect to get results. Obviously, it’s not the same without our supporters, that’s for sure, but the expectation of getting points at home is still there," Diego Valeri told the media after Portland's 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy Wednesday evening.
"[The Galaxy] were very good in transition. They were good in finding spaces in some moments and they hurt us in particular moments," said Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese.
Later, Savarese offered an interesting explanation for why the Timbers have been defending so poorly in the restart.
"We don’t want to concede so many goals, but the way we play at home, we try to be more open," explained Savarese.
"We try to be a team that tries to be more upfront and pressure a little higher. It comes with some consequences sometimes. We’ll continue to work and I’m sure, with the attitude I saw today, there’s going to be a lot more games that we’re going to win.”
Despite the disappointing results, Savarese and Valeri don't seem to be panicking. The Timbers rested many key players to begin the match due to the large number of games being played shortly after one another, and Savarese was proud of how his team performed.
“I felt the young guys that came in did a very good job," said the Timbers head coach. "The majority of them. Some definitely showed some moments in which they can do some things a little bit better. Overall a very good performance and I have to say that I’m proud of the way the guys came in and used their minutes. Unfortunately, we gave up those goals in particular times. Definitely, as I said, the Galaxy found some moments to be very dangerous, but I think we did enough also, with the guys that came in in the second half, to come out of this match with something more. I thought it became a very transitional game. A back-and-forth, back-and-forth game."
Meanwhile, Valeri mentioned how the season is long and the goal to win the MLS Cup has not changed.
"This is the MLS, in a long season you have these moments, We have achieved a big goal which was the MLS Is Back Tournament, and now we have this three game run which we couldn’t get the results that we wanted," said Valeri. "This is a long season, we have an important game coming, and we know that it’s a long way until our big goal, which is to make the playoffs.”
Next, the Timbers will head north to Seattle to play the Sounders on Sunday, September 6th at 7:00 p.m. PT looking to avenge their 3-0 defeat last month.
It'll be a great test to see if Portland's defense can rise up to the occasion. In fact, Savarese hinted in his press conference after Wednesday's match that he rested many key players in anticipation of Sunday's Cascadia clash.
We'll find out Sunday evening if Savarese made the correct call.