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HEAD COACH ADRIAN HEATH

On balancing the upcoming intensity and rest over the last two weeks …

“Last week was a little bit of rest. When we got back from LA, we had two or three days off, then we didn’t do a lot of physical work. This week, we’ve started to ramp it up a little bit. I said to the guys, ‘Listen, enjoy a few days off but don’t take your eyes off what the prize is in a week on Sunday.’ There’s been a really good vibe in the group, with what’s coming. Big game for us. We’ve proved before we can go on the road and win in playoff situations. We know what’s at stake.”

On focusing on the depth of the squad, not knowing how the international players will return …

“You have to cover the eventuality. We’re fortunate that Romain [Metanire] is fit and healthy, he’s coming back today. But you know, keeping our fingers crossed. Robin Lod is playing today, huge game for them against France. We just hope he comes through unscathed because, as we’ve spoke a lot about recently, when we’ve got our front four on the field, you can tell the results that we’ve had. Taken 22 points out of eight games, I think it is. That speaks volumes really. Hopefully, he comes back fit and healthy. He’ll be a little but tired but won’t do an awful lot between now and Sunday.”

On maintaining the momentum from the end of the season run …

“I think so. There’s been a real good mood in the group. You can sense that they know it’s win and advance or go home and I think we all want to carry on. We get that it’s been a long season but when you get to this stage, you want it to continue. What’s another three weeks? We know it’s going to be tough. [Portland is] in particularly good form at this time but I think they know that we are. I think it’ll be whoever’s big players come up on the day.”

On having a good track record against Portland and how their season has gone …

“A little bit like us that their front four have been excellent. [Dairon] Asprilla is probably playing as well as he’s done at any stage since he’s been at Portland. [Jaroslaw] Niezgoda is coming off the back of an ACL and now looks like he’s back to his full fitness. [Sebastian] Blanco has been outstanding the last few weeks and Yimmi Chara is another quality player. That’s a really expensive front four that they’ve got. Or five if you throw [Felipe] Mora in there for Niezgoda. Whichever four they go with, we know they’ve got quality and we will have to defend really well. We’ll have to be really well concentrated and if we are, we give ourselves a chance to go and win the game.”

On the Minnesota front line …

“I want more of the same. We’ve looked really dangerous every time they’ve played together. Some of our attacking play in LA was outstanding, on the counterattack, and we need more of the same. I do know if we’re going to make inroads in these playoffs, we need our better players to perform on the day and if they do, we have enough talent to win the game.”

DEFENDER CHASE GASPER

On how the team is mentally and physically heading into Round One of the playoffs …

“I feel we’re definitely prepared. This two-week break is huge, mentally and physically, for our team and every team in the league because of the duration of the season, the wear and tear of two games a week and travel. I think it’s great for our group, especially. Get some guys healthy. It’s good to get all the guys back from loan. We have our entire team here, practicing, competing and I think it’s shown in the sharpness of our practices, which is a good indicator for this Sunday.”

On the importance of getting a mental break as well as a physical one …

“100 percent. I think mental rest is more important than physical rest. It’s a long season. A lot of travel. Especially with the last year and a half that we’ve had with COVID, it’s nice to unwind, take a breath for a weekend. Once you regroup, then your body is fit, mind is fit and you’re ready to go.”

On overcoming the 0-4 start and making the playoffs as the fifth seed …

“It feels good knowing, when you say it like that with the 0-4 start, but at the same time, it’s like a double-edged sword. We know how much potential is in this group, the quality of players that we have. Do we feel like maybe we should have done better? Maybe, but regardless, it doesn’t matter. We’re in the playoffs and that was the goal from the start. We’re happy that we achieved that and all that really matters at this point is Sunday when we play Portland in Portland. The team is looking sharp at practice. We’re going to carry that momentum. We’ve gotten some good results recently and we’re really excited for the game.”

On the challenges Portland Timbers bring …

“It’s going to be a very difficult game. Their attacking pieces are great. A lot of quality. The front four is phenomenal, a lot of good movement. Their interchanging play and the runs they make, it’s very tough to defend. It’s not going to be just the back four and goalie. It’s going to be the entire team that needs to defend well, defend as a unit. Historically, we’ve gotten results there. Playoffs are a totally different game so we’re not going to ride on what we’ve done in the past. We know how important, what’s on the line on Sunday, so we go in with the right mentality and go to win.”

GOALKEEPER TYLER MILLER

On having an extra week to prepare ahead of Round One of the playoffs …

“Everybody has just been taking the time to rest. Mentally, it was a long season. A lot of challenges throughout the entire time. For us as a team, I think we really took advantage of the time off to get some rest days, really refresh and mentally prepare for what’s to come in this next week of training and the difficult away game against Portland.”

On playing the game on a Sunday …

“It’s a build-up. To be honest, I try to approach each day and focus on what I need to do on that day, rather than focusing on what I need to do on the weekend. For me, it’s really about staying present in every training and working on little things, little techniques or movements or things that I feel like I need to continue to improve on. For me, this whole week has been about little improvements and then, ultimately, the day of the game is when I’ll prepare for that game.”

On overcoming the 0-4 start and making the playoffs as the fifth seed …

“Always. It was a difficult start to the season, both personally and as a team. But everybody really believed in what we were able to do as a unit and when it came down to it, certain players stepped up when they were called upon throughout the entire season. We had the 0-4 start but there were many other challenges the entire year and I think everybody really stepped up when they were called upon and it’s going to be no different in the playoffs. If we’re going to make a run, you have yellow card accumulation, you have injuries, you have international break now that we’re dealing with. So there’s a lot challenges that come with making a good playoff run but it’s about who can be hot and maintain their streak at the end of the season when all the games matter the most.”

On having a good track record against Portland and how their season has gone …

“Portland is a special team. They’ve always given us a true test and we’ve gotten some really good results against them in the last two years. Our ability to really stay disciplined when we’re [at Providence Park] has helped us a lot. We were fortunate to score in the first minute of the game the last time we went there and hung on for the 1-0 win. But for us, they’re a different team now. They have [Sebastian] Blanco back and he’s playing much better and they’re putting pieces together at the right time. They’re a dangerous team to play against right now but I think we’re all very confident in our own ability.”