The Portland Timbers will begin the post-Giovanni Savarese era when they play host to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.
The Timbers (6-10-8, 26 points), who are 12th in the Western Conference, fired Savarese as coach Monday after a 5-0 loss last weekend at Houston.
Savarese coached the Timbers for five-plus seasons, leading them to two MLS Cup appearances and the title at the MLS is Back Tournament during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a long time, six years. He deserves the credit and deserves the respect for all the success he’s had for this club,” Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco said. “We have to be, also, responsible for this moment. We are the players. The last year and a half wasn’t easy and we had to do more. Unfortunately, Gio paid for everything.”
Timbers assistant Miles Joseph was named the interim coach for the remainder of the season.
Veteran midfielder Diego Chara also lamented Savarese’s fate.
“To part ways with him in this way is really bad,” Chara said. “As players, we can support him through results. I wish the best for him, and now, we need to change the situation and get better results.”
The Timbers will have to do that without forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Sunday and will undergo season-ending surgery.
The Whitecaps (8-8-7, 31 points), who are tied for eighth in the West, lost 1-0 against San Jose last Sunday, allowing a goal on the Earthquakes’ only shot on target.
Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini said he doesn’t quite know what to expect from the Timbers after the coaching change.
“It’s a big question mark,” Sartini said. “Because when you face a team that changed the coach, you don’t know what the reaction will be. It can be a very strong reaction sometimes, like a rebound, or they can sometimes still be in a little bit of confusion, and maybe you can try to exploit and profit from this kind of situation.”
The Timbers and Whitecaps split their first two meetings, with the Whitecaps winning 1-0 at home on April 8 behind Brian White’s goal and the host Timbers taking a 3-1 decision May 13 as Evander tallied twice.
—Field Level Media