Gio Savarese opens up on Evander, Leagues Cup, new approach this season

Viking FK v Portland Timbers
Viking FK v Portland Timbers / Soobum Im/GettyImages

Timbers head coach Gio Savarese spoke to the club ahead of the team's final round of pre-season friendlies this month, and opened up on the mood in the camp, how new signings are fitting in, and more.

With less than one month until the Timbers host Sporting KC on opening night of the 2023 Major League Soccer regular season, preparations are underway in the team camp. In the coming weeks the Cascadia club will travel to Southern California for the Coachella Valley Invitational, where they will square off with the LA Galaxy, Toronto FC, and NYCFC in pre-season friendlies. Ahead of the final weeks of preparation, Gio Savarese spoke to the club about the upcoming campaign.

On a new approach this season

"In 2022, it was the only year in which we didn't achieve our minimum, which is making playoffs. I think that the players learned a lot, individually and as a group. For this season, we are coming with this different mentality, with an idea that there are some things that we have to do better. And from the first day, I can tell you that the players came in a great mental stage, with unity, and [were] ready to be able to play.

"Now, we've been thinking about going back to things that we know that we can do that we can be successful, to the way we played in the past. And getting a couple of players in a better form. We are looking to make sure that Seba [Blanco] and [Felipe] Mora can come back and be stronger and better. Last year was difficult for them—it was a very tough year for both of them."

On Evander's arrival in Portland

"There was a lot of work being done in order to bring Evander—he was a club record [signing], in investing in a player that can bring quality to the team. We have seen him a lot. We worked very hard and we know what he's capable of. He's eager to start being part of the team and he's been a great addition."

On the addition of Liam Ridgewell to the coaching staff

"With Liam, the possibility to be able to bring in a player to become an assistant coach says a lot the direction of the club. I always am a firm believer that when players do well for the organization, they need to remain in the organization, and to have different goals.

"He's still growing, he's still developing. This is his first coaching experience. But he's been in different places, in good environments, and he brings a ton of passion to the coaching staff. I think that's a good thing. And at the end of the day, all the coaches that we have complement the entire group to be better."

On Leagues Cup 2023

"We know that the setup of Leagues Cup has been different in the past. But now, having a tournament with all the teams participating, and getting into a group that has a team like San Jose [Earthquakes] and a strong team like Tigres is exciting.

"These matches will allow us, as an MLS [team] and as the Portland Timbers, to get gain more respect. And it's exciting to participate in and be part of this. We are looking forward to it. It's still a little time [away]... we have a lot of games to play before we get there."