Savarese guides Timbers against new-look Galaxy (Mar 02, 2018)

March 2, 2018

Big changes from a year ago is the theme with the Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy opening their 2018 season on Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

The Galaxy will attempt to rebound from tying D.C. United with the fewest points in the MLS with 32 last season when they finished 8-18-8. The five-time champions missed the playoffs and went 3-9-5 at home.

With Los Angeles FC kicking off its first season across town, the pressure is on the Galaxy to make drastic improvements to get back to their glory and more important, draw fans.

Newcomers David Bingham, Michael Ciani, Jorgen Skjelvik and Perry Kitchen have been brought in to shore up their defense.

LA Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid was encouraged by how the Galaxy came together during the preseason.

"We got a lot out of preseason, in what we wanted in terms of obviously putting the new guys into positions. I think our fitness level is good," Schmid said. "You saw us go for 90 minutes, we were still pushing it at the end. But, there's still that little bit of cohesion, that understanding.

"It's a little bit of just getting to know each other. That's just going to take time. You're not going to create that in two or three games. I can't complain with the chances we're creating."

Defending Western Conference champion Portland has a new coach for the first time in five seasons with Giovanni Savarese, who was a successful manager of the New York Cosmos. He comes to Portland after former coach Caleb Porter unexpectedly stepped down after last season.

"It's been a journey," said the 46-year-old Savarese. "I'm excited, but the reality is it's about the players and it's about the club. I think that's most important."

Portland literally will be on a journey to start the season as the Timbers open with five consecutive road games because ofo stadium construction at Providence Park.

As the Cosmos manager, Savarese favored a possession-oriented and attacking brand of soccer, similar to Porter's style. Savarese is much more flexible with his formation and approach than Porter.

Savarese plans to use the same 4-2-3-1 formation that that was a staple of Porter era. However, after the Timbers struggled in the first halves of preseason games against FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City, Savarese switched to a 4-4-2 against Dallas and used what looked like a 4-1-4-1 against Kansas City.

The core of Portland's roster remains intact from last year, but the Timbers added significant depth this offseason by signing Swedish striker Samuel Armenteros, Peruvian winger Andy Polo, Paraguayan midfielder Cristhian Paredes and Costa Rican center back Julio Cascante.

Timbers midfielder Diego Chara, who broke his foot in October, will travel to Los Angeles, but it remains questionable how long he can play. Jake Gleeson is expected to get the nod in place of injured goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who is battling a quad strain.

"Any change is new and it takes a while to adjust," said Gleeson about having a new coach. "We're still learning. We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to get to. ... But it's been good so far and it's only going to get better."

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