Fresh from his selection in the MLS Best XI, Diego Chara knows the Portland Timbers must replicate the form they showed in their impressive 2015 and 2018 postseason campaigns in order to succeed in the playoffs – starting against FC Dallas on Sunday.
Combative midfielder Chara made 20 regular-season starts for the Timbers, who finished third in the Western Conference this term, registering one goal and a career-high six assists.
Chara, who ranks highest for tackles won (735) in the league since his Timbers debut on April 23, 2011, was a key part of the Timbers team which won MLS Cup in 2015 and got to the final in 2018, while he was also integral to their success in the MLS is Back Tournament earlier this year.
Now, the 34-year-old has set his sights on more silverware.
“These couple of weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to train normally and prepare well,” he said against Portland’s first meeting with Dallas this season.
“In 2015 and 2018, we were the strongest team mentally and physically, we played game by game, always focused. We hope to do that again. It will be a hard game against Dallas but the team is prepared.
“It’s going to be weird. We didn’t play them this year, and now we’re playing them in the playoffs. For us and them, it will be like a surprise.”
Portland beat Dallas 2-1 in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, and coach Luchi Gonzalez is in no mood for a repeat result.
“It is something that we care about. I wasn’t coaching this team but I have very good connections with the players and staff that were on the team in 2018, and had that experience,” he said.
“We didn’t end the regular season the way we wanted to, so we’ve got a bit of a chip on our shoulder and we want to respond.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Portland Timbers – Diego Chara
Having finally ended a 10-year wait to be named in the MLS Best XI, Portland stalwart Chara now has the chance to prove just how good he is when it really matters, and lead his team deep into the postseason.
FC Dallas – Franco Jara
With seven goals from 19 appearances in 2020, experienced forward Jara finished the regular-season as Dallas’ top scorer, and he will be crucial to their chances of progressing in the playoffs.
KEY OPTA FACTS
•This will be the first meeting between Portland and Dallas this season. The Timbers have lost only one of their last seven matches against FCD (W3 D3), including a 2-1 away win in the 2018 knockout round.
•After a five-match winning streak in September-October, Portland won just two of their final seven matches (D3 L2) of the season. The Timbers scored more than one goal just once in those matches, doing so in a 5-2 win over the LA Galaxy in late October.
•Dallas have won just two of their last 17 away matches (D5 L10, including playoffs) dating back to August 2019.
•The Hoops have managed just one goal in their last six away from home, with that goal coming via Ryan Hollingshead in their lone away win in that time, a 1-0 victory at Nashville SC in early November.
•Hollingshead – who is injured – has scored four of Dallas’ last ten MLS goals, including their only away goal since mid-September. His ten goals over the last two seasons are more than any other MLS defender since the start of the 2019 campaign.