Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri (pictured) celebrates after scoring against host Saprissa in a Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League match on September 14, 2016, in Tibas, San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: Mexsport)
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- It is as simple as this: the Portland Timbers need to win their final two Group B matches to advance to the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
The Timbers (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) will continue that quest at Dragon (0-1-2, 1) on Tuesday night.
A draw against the Salvadoran side probably won't be enough because then the Major League Soccer side would have to defeat group leader Saprissa (2-1-0, 7) by nine goals in the final group game in Portland on October 19. While mathematically possible, victory by such a large margin is highly unlikely.
"We were not been able to win in Costa Rica," midfielder Diego Valeri said Monday in regard to a 4-2 loss at Saprissa on September 14. "It got complicated. Now we have to win the [rest of the] matches in order to advance. The good thing is that it depends on us. It’s in our hands. It’s our responsibility, so we are going to play a good game tomorrow.”
Although Dragon has been eliminated from contention, the Argentinean midfielder believes the Salvadoran side still will be difficult to handle.
“We know that it is going to be very difficult," stressed Valeri. "We have a lot of expectations of playing a good game and winning. We know that Dragon is out of chances to make it to the knockout phase, but they are going to try to play a good game. They are going to try to win, putting pressure on us, so it depends on us to be able to adapt a little to what the match is asking for and to win it, which is most important.”
In its home encounter against Dragon on August 3, Portland recorded a 2-1 win as Valeri connected for the game-winner in the 90th minute. Kenroy Howell scored Dragon’s lone SCCL goal in that match.
“They have people in attack who are fast, strong and can do damage to us on the counterattack or on a quick outlet,” Valeri concluded. “We are going to have to manage spaces, handle the ball well and give intensity to the match.”
Portland has lost both of its SCCL matches played in Central America by the combined score of 7-3.