Portland midfielder Will Johnson met with the media today at Jeld-Wen Field after the Timbers final training before their 8:23 p.m. Thursday second-leg against Seattle Sounders FC.
Here’s what he had to say:
On the match: Anytime we step on this field regardless of circumstances or opponent we try to win. That’s what our fans expect, that’s the culture that we’ve built here. Everything’s about winning, and there’s no exceptions tomorrow night.
On any downside in playing just to protect a one-goal advantage: I think it’s just halftime. Obviously we are in a better position, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Both of our seasons are on the line. There’s going to be a lot of intense pressure on both teams. I think there’s still a lot of play for, and we’ve got a good gameplan going in to combat any desire to play for a draw. Like I said, we’re going to play for a win.
On the difficulty of closing out a team: It’s tough. Obviously trying to end someone’s season is not easy to do because they give everything, versus regular season it tends to be a little bit easier. So you’ve got to step up, you’ve got to give more that we gave more the other night up in Seattle. We’ve got to find a way to give everything we have to close it out, because it is different.
On if the playoffs lessen the rivalry aspect: I think it’s more about just winning and advancing in the playoffs. We both have similar goals: just to get to the Western Conference final. The Seattle-Portland rivalry is a nice side story, but I think that’s all it is to be honest with you. It’s about getting to the next round of the playoffs for two organizations that are hungry for success.
On Sounders’ set pieces: They’ve scored on two what we would call dead balls up in Seattle with the Eddie Johnson free-kick header and the long throw-in the other night. We’ve just got to be more alert on set pieces. Run of play has been pretty good, we’ve kept it pretty tight, we just have to stay a little more alert on dead balls, especially tomorrow, especially when they start thowing a lot of numbers because obviously they have to find a goal.
On if they expect Seattle to attack from the start: You’ve got to be ready for everything. Who knows that they’re going to do? They might come out and throw numbers and be a very attacking team first minute. They might try and play how they did in the regular season: try and just win over the course of 90 minutes. But we’re prepared for everything. We’ve gone over different scenarios, and I’m sure they’ve done the same thing. We’ll see what they do, and we’ll be ready for it.
On winning the series at home: It would mean everything. This city has been behind this club for three years. They’ve been waiting a long, long time for this playoff game to be played here. It would be special if we could reward all their faith and effort for three years. That’s a long, long time to wait for a playoff game, so we’re excited to be finally bringing a playoff game to them, and we’d be more excited if we can get the result that we need.
On what he expects from the Timbers Army: Expect the unexpected, that’s what I always say with those guys: They’re incredible.