Portland Timbers Training Notes & Quotes: Lamenting the Lost Points

"Please be careful of Eddie Johnson," Coach John Spencer announced just before a 7v7v7 scrimmage at Jeld-Wen Field, as Johnson laughed sheepishly and shrugged. "You touch him, he bleeds."

Indeed, Eddie Johnson did make his triumphant return to the training pitch on Tuesday, wearing protective headgear as a precaution after the concussion he suffered earlier in the year. And if I'm not mistaken it was Johnson who scored the first goal of the scrimmage, assisted by Lovel Palmer. It brought cheers from his teammates and put a big smile on his face.

Meanwhile, Sal Zizzo has undergone surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament. And Darlington Nagbe remains sidelined, but we heard no update on his condition.

Former USL-era Timbers midfielder Tony McManus was on the pitch as a guest player. A Portland resident during the off-season, the Timbers let him train with the team during the 2011 pre-season and welcomed him back on Tuesday. No sign of fellow Portland resident Ryan Pore, though.

The Timbers will continue a four day per week training schedule until the week after the end of the playoffs. During that time, according to General Manager and Technical Director Gavin Wilkinson, "quite a few" trialists will be training with the team -- "players we've identified that could be with us in the future." We will keep you posted on those developments.

Quotes

John Spencer

On continuing regular trainings beyond the end of competitive matches

We'll probably train up to the MLS Cup, right around that point, and then give the guys the rest of the time off. It's just such a long offseason. You know, sometimes you get too much time off, and then you come back, start spring training and it takes your body a long time to get going, then all of a sudden you pick up injuries and stuff like that. So, we're not going to go too hard, we'll probably just do 45 minutes to an hour every day. The usual schedule -- weekends off, Wednesdays off, do a four-day week.

On falling short of the playoffs

I think it's been a really good season for us -- it'd be a tremendous season if we'd gotten to the playoffs. The good and bad is that we had the points in the bag to get to the playoffs -- that's the good thing -- and the disappointing part of it is that we let the points go. You look at some of the other teams that weren't in the running for it after the tenth week of the season; we, as an expansion team, we got nearly there, and obviously nearly is not good enough for where we want to be as a club, but like I've said if you had told us at the start of 2011 that we would get 42 points, and 11 wins, in our first year, I think we'd have taken it all day long.

On the progress that has been made

I think if you look at the difference in our mentality, strength and character between the first half of the season on the road and the second half of the season on the road, we were a different group. That game that we tied against Real Salt Lake, we'd probably lose that 2 or 3 - nil earlier in the season, but collectively now we're a stronger group, and I think the guys in the second half of the year really came through for us.

Jack Jewsbury

On continuing regular trainings beyond the end of competitive matches

These other teams in the playoffs are still training and continuing to get good work in. So I think it makes sense to stay around for a little bit and make sure you stay sharp, to shorten up that offseason a little bit and make guys stay as fit as they can.

It's tough sometimes, mentally, to get out here when you don't have a game or something to prep for, but I think that's part of being a professional. A lot of guys are realizing that right now, that you continue to stay sharp, and there are things from throughout the year that maybe you weren't as sharp as you'd like to be, and this is the time to hone that.

On falling short of the playoffs

I think obviously if you look at our road record, just getting the two wins throughout the year -- it put a lot of pressure on us here at home, to get three points every time out. Even though we did a great job, and the support was unbelievable to help us do that, we have to be a bit better and a bit more consistent on the road.

I think you can point to a few of the games where we'd like to have some of those moments back. Obviously New York, here at home, losing some points. When you have 34 games, there are certain ones that are going to hurt a little bit worse.

We're a young team that hadn't played together before. A lot of these clubs in this league have built a core foundation of guys that they've had for a long time, and that experience of playing together. This team had its growing pains. But I felt like we hit a consistency in the middle, end part of the season, and by then we were flying pretty high. All in all, it was a great season, both from a team standpoint and for the city and the support that we got.

On serving as the team's captain

It's been an honor to be leading this group of guys. It's an unbelievably talented group of young players that we have. I've said it before: I don't think some of them really realize how good they really are, and they need to continue to push themselves, because they have a lot to give.

The whole staff, to be honest, they had the confidence in me and my game from watching me from afar. They brought me in here and said, "Do what you can -- we brought you here for your experience and your leadership." It's been nice to have that support from them. I just look forward to continue to do that for years to come, because I think this is a place that any player would want to be a part of.

Taking positives from the season

The biggest positive is that in a tough league, if you look at most of the teams in the playoffs, there are just a few teams that beat us both home and away. And in that group of ten teams, we stood up against some of the best competition in this league, whether here or away, and played some great soccer. There's a lot to build on here, and we weren't far from making the playoffs. It's an exciting group of players and a group that's going to be great for the future of this club.

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