After Saprissa setback, Portland looks to regroup

Jack McInerney (green jersey) scored the Portland Timbers' lone goal in a 1-1 draw with visiting Saprissa in a Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League match on October 19, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: Mexsport)


PORTLAND, Oregon -- Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter did not mince words after his team was eliminated from the 2016/17 Scotiabak CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night.

“This one hurts,” he said, following Portland's 1-1 Group B draw with visiting Saprissa, a result that saw the Costa Rican power advance to the quarterfinals. “It hurts probably as much as any game since I’ve been here.

"We wanted to win this game badly. We wanted to get out of the group stage. It was a big priority. The guys left everything on the field. It stings. It’s a very devastated locker room in there. They all feel it. That’s how I feel, too."

For the second time in two SCCL appearances, the Timbers just missed reaching the knockout round. In the 2014/15 edition, they finished tied for the group lead with Honduras’ Olimpia, but missed out by virtue of the head-to-head away goals tie-breaker (2-1).

“It’s tough right now," commented midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "It’s a cruel game sometimes. It’s a cruel way to lose and it’s just unfortunate because I really think we knew as a club how important this was to try to advance and we just fell short.”

The defending Major League Soccer champion will go from one important match to another, facing a must-win game at the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday to qualify for the playoffs. Portland sits seventh in the Western Conference standings. The top six teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.

Midfielder Jack Barmby, whose corner kick set up Jack McInerney's lone goal for the Timbers, said the defeat "will fuel us for the next game, especially against Vancouver."

The ninth-place Whitecaps, which qualified for the SCCL quarterfinals by winning Group C with a 4-0-0 mark, are out of the playoff picture and will try to play the role of spoilers.

“We’re professionals. There are a lot of ups and downs throughout the season," Grabavoy concluded. "This is a really difficult one, but it’s certainly easy to get up for the next one because it’s arguably just as important as this one. We’ll get it together. We’ll sleep on it. Hopefully we’ll take care of business this weekend.”