Soccer-Portland feeling right at home ahead of MLS Cup Final

Dec 9, 2021; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese speaks during a press conference at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

December 10, 2021

(Reuters) – Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese said he expects the raucous Timbers fanbase to give his team a major boost when they take on visiting New York City FC in the MLS Cup Final on Saturday.

The team’s mascot, the chainsaw-wielding ‘Timber Joey,’ slices a piece off of a giant tree every time Portland scores, and Savarese said he expects his side to cut NYCFC down too.

“I believe so, 100%,” he told reporters when asked if his team would claim the franchise’s second Cup at Providence Park.

“I believe in the players. We’ll be very competitive, and we’re going to fight hard because this is our home.”

He said he has seen no drop-off in motivation since the team defeated Real Salt Lake 2-0 in the Western Conference final.

“We practiced the next day. The guys came in right away. They were excited to put the work in to prepare ourselves for this game.

“I feel very lucky to have this group of players because it feels like a family more than a team.”

Veteran NYCFC goalie Sean Johnson also likened his team to a family, and said they have overcome hostile environments in big matches.

“It’s a special moment for us, and one we’re definitely wanting to take advantage of,” he said ahead of NYCFC’s first MLS Cup Final appearance.

“This team, we consider ourselves a family and I think when you look at past years, this year more than any, we’ve shown a togetherness and a willingness to do any and everything for each other.

“We’re playing with a purpose and have been very united.”

Johnson pointed to hard-fought road wins over the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and then Philadelphia Union in the conference finals as proof the team can withstand a hostile environment.

“It’s important as a group to take those experiences and learn from them.”

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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