Saprissa head coach Carlos Watson (pictured) speaks to the media after his team drew with the host Portland Timbers in a Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League match on October 19, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: Mexsport)
PORTLAND, Oregon – Saprissa took the best that the host Portland Timbers could give Wednesday, ultimately walking away from Providence Park with a 1-1 draw and the prize of a place in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
The Monstruo Morado edged the Major League Soccer champion by a single point to capture the Group B title, but it had to earn that achievement the hard way. Head coach Carlos Watson was delighted with the outcome.
“We wanted to qualify and we have qualified,” said Watson. “It makes us feel good. We have gained confidence. We are the only remaining team in this tournament from our country and that makes us feel proud.”
The final result, however, remained in question to the final whistle. Portland held significant advantages in key statistical categories, including shots (13-5) and possession (55%-45%).
Those numbers weren’t lost on Watson.
“I feel like we lost possession of the ball,” he noted. ”But with so much rain and a very fast pitch, I think that they controlled those circumstances better. They felt more comfortable and quickly got out to the wings, keeping us unbalanced and making us uncomfortable.”
One of the keys to Saprissa’s SCCL group-stage campaign was a 4-2 win over visiting Portland on September 14, which went a long way in canceling out a scoreless draw at Dragon.
In the final analysis, Watson was relieved to overcome a talented Timbers side.
“Thankfully we managed to earn the advantage at home,” finished Waston. “We knew that today, being in their natural conditions, they were going to raise their performances and that’s how it was. I think they are strong, fast, above all, on the wings. They have very good players in midfield. I refer to [Darlington] Nagbe and [Diego] Chara. They are good footballers.
“They had bad luck in that [Fanendo] Adi wasn’t there because on crosses he would have hurt us more, but I think they are a good team, very solid, very strong and, above all, they imposed their play on us.”
Regardless, Saprissa found a way to get the result when it mattered most.