Tim­bers un­fazed by At­lanta crowd

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS FRIDAY - By Joe Tansey

AT­LANTA — When the Port­land Tim­bers walk onto the field in­side a bois­ter­ous Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium on Satur­day night for MLS Cup, they won’t be in­tim­i­dated by one of the best en­vi­ron­ments in the league.

In or­der to get to MLS Cup, the Tim­bers reeled off road wins against FC Dal­las and Sport­ing Kansas City, and bagged a pair of away goals against the Seat­tle Sounders.

The re­sults from the last month com­bined with a 2015 MLS Cup road win have the Tim­bers play­ers feel­ing con­fi­dent.

“It’s a great sta­dium,” Tim­bers cap­tain Diego Va­leri said. “It’s a great at­mos­phere in At­lanta. They are a good team and prob­a­bly have a lit­tle ad­van­tage be­cause they al­ready know the field. It’s their sta­dium, but be­sides that it’s 11 play­ers ver­sus 11 play­ers on a field. To win a fi­nal, you have to play a great game, and that’s what we want to do.”

An or­ga­nized play­ing style in­sti­tuted by first-year man­ager Gio­vanni Savarese and goals in clutch sit­u­a­tions from Va­leri and Se­bas­tian Blanco was the for­mula for vic­tory in the sec­ond leg of the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal against Sport­ing Kansas City.

“I think ev­ery­one is just buy­ing into the things that make us suc­cess­ful this sea­son,” Tim­bers goal­keeper Jeff At­tinella said. “When you go on the road, you have to be com­pact and or­ga­nized and you have to be tough to break down.”

Tim­bers mid­fielder Diego Chara noted an­other team strength, its pa­tience in crit­i­cal mo­ment dur­ing the last match against SKC.

“I feel it’s noth­ing too dif­fer­ent with At­lanta,” Chara said. “We know At­lanta is a strong team and they are go­ing to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties to score. We need to be fo­cused all the time.”

Eight play­ers on the Tim­bers roster were part of the squad that cap­tured the 2015 MLS Cup on the road at Mapfre Sta­dium in Columbus.

Those play­ers are us­ing that spe­cific ex­pe­ri­ence to help out the rest of the team in an­tic­i­pa­tion of Satur­day.

“I think pulling from guys’ ex­pe­ri­ence, it builds into the con­fi­dence of the group,” At­tinella said. “We have a group of guys that have won a cup, es­pe­cially a group of vet­er­ans that have been there be­fore in these big-time mo­ments. It’s easy for us to pull from them and even when they’re on the field how calm and con­fi­dent they are through­out this en­tire week. It’s easy for me to look up to guys like that and try to ap­proach it the same way they are.”

In 2015, the Tim­bers took the lead through two goals in the first seven min­utes by way of Va­leri and Rod­ney Wal­lace.

The play­ers who went through that ex­pe­ri­ence, such as Chara, are aware of how im­por­tant the ini­tial mo­ments of the fi­nal are.

“It’s go­ing to be im­por­tant in this game to get a strong start,” Chara said. “I think it’s cru­cial for this game and we know that.”

As for the days build­ing up to the game, the Tim­bers are go­ing to do ex­actly what they’ve done on pre­vi­ous trips, try to block out dis­trac­tions -- some­thing that will be more dif­fi­cult with so many other ac­tiv­i­ties and peo­ple in At­lanta for this event. But it’s a rou­tine they’ve be­come used to and will help set­tle nerves be­fore MLS Cup kicks off.

“It’s just been us,” At­tinella said. “For us, it’s been no dis­trac­tions and know­ing what we need to do to get the re­sult on the road. For­tu­nately, we’ve been able to do it to get to this point.”

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