The Portland Timbers took to the field for their second practice of 2012 today. At Jeld-Wen it was rainy and cold and perfect for football. Lucky for those of us in attendance, we were able to join the players out in the Oregon weather and observe practice.
Drills focused on basic fitness and regaining the touch lost in the soccer-less off season. Running, passing, and games of keep away dominated a somewhat uneventful practice. Trialists Franck Songo’o and Joe Bendick remained with the team, as did unsigned draftees Ryan Kowaluk, Miguel Ibarra, Brendan King, and Doug Herrick. The Timbers final supplemental draft pick, Logan McDaniel will join up with the team for the remainder of the preseason in LA after finishing his final term at Loyola.
The highlights of the day generally came as a result of Kalif Alhassan’s penchant for flair in even the most mundane keep away drills, often adding in a superfluous step over between passes. By the end of practice a few players were clearly becoming winded including new forward Jose Adolfo Valencia, but the majority of the team looked to be in good shape.
Coach John Spencer
On the weather
I hate the weather. I think it is good for the turf when it's wet. The ball moves quicker. For me, I always liked training in this kind of weather. I don't like living in this type of weather but I like training in it.
On training in LA
You always look forward to going somewhere else until you get there and then you want to come back home. It's a good change for the guys, a good change of scenery. Good to get out of town, get away from a little bit of distraction sometimes, but it's also nice to get back home to your family.
On the second day of training being more difficult
Yeah, I think so. You can do that much fitness on your own. You always think you are working really hard when you are doing it by yourself or with a couple guys, but when you start doing football movements, you can't really replicate that until you are actually playing with the ball yourself. Tomorrow we will open up a little bit and start to introduce more game-like situations. We'll let the do what they love the most, play the game.
On the intensity of training
We have got plenty of time. We don't need to go helter-skelter right now, we'll build into it. Last year we picked up a couple injuries. The guys were super anxious to get going last year because it was a new franchise and all the excitement then we picked up a couple injuries in preseason that we couldn't really shake.
We're careful. We're not scared we're just trying to be a little bit smarter.
On new goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack
Mike Toshack Has come in and adds a little bit of experience to our goalkeeping staff that way on the coaching side. We've got a young goalkeeper and I think his work with Stefan Frei speaks for itself. He's molded him into a really good young goalkeeper.
On the possibility of expanding the reserve league
I think there is always talk, you know, but everybody wants to do it and I would be one for it because I loved doing the reserves in Houston. I took great pride in it, as we do here with Amos. The problem is CONCACAF. Teams adding tournaments, traveling, so I think it is a great idea but there's a lot of politics to get through and travel issues to get through before we decide that. I don't make the rules I just follow them.
On the final roster size
All I do is coach the team and try to make the team play well.
You get managers in the [English Premier League] complaining about losing a couple players to the African Cup when they've spent six hundred million on the squad.
For me, you just deal with what is in front of you. it is not a big deal if it is twenty eight.
On the open tryouts
You might find that one that might come through from overseas or wherever, but someone being unearthed is highly unlikely.
On the All-Star Game announcement
I just try to pay attention to what is going on at our football club. Gavin will come and say this rule changed, great. What do you want to do? I am not going to call Don Garber and say we need to change the rules. As I say, it's the format, you have to follow it. Doesn't matter. They give you a salary cap, follow by the rules.
On starting his second year with the club
I learned a lot my first year. Obviously expectations haven't changed, they are probably higher than they were last year. As coach said on the first day, we're expected to make the playoffs and that is all there is to it. We know each and every day he keeps on us. Sometimes we are a little bit slow here and there getting back to it, but he is on us. He keeps our minds straight on the goal. It's very intense and I think everyone understands that and it's looking good so far.
On helping new players fit in as one of the Spanish speakers on the team
I help any way I can. I learned [Spanish] through school. I have no Spanish descent in my family but just learning through school. I enjoy learning and they want to learn English, but they have to get through trainings and any way I can help, telling them directions and what we are supposed to be doing I will try to help any way I can.
On his preparation for preseason
I'm happy to be back, ready to go. I think this was a shorter off season than ones in the past. I think it was a good thing that we trained a little bit longer. I think it was a little hard the way the season ended though and obviously a little bitter. Looking at it now it was good so that guys didn't have much of a gap to pick up when they came back and I think that you saw that yesterday in fitness testing, and I think you saw that as a whole. I think the group looks good and I think the young guys are bringing some energy, the international guys too. I think everybody is really excited and I think that everybody is really feeling out the waters, you know, taking it one day at a time. For the second day, you know, it is exciting.
I had a really good off season workout schedule. I have a couple good trainers back in California that I work with that set it up. I had a good time off but I did all the things to take care of my body and when I come back give myself the best chance to have a good season.
On the state of the team
I see a fast team. I see a very technical team. I think that one of the things that I was very impressed with when i joined the club last year in August was the team speed as a whole. I think that the counter attack and breaking out when we got the ball in transition is going to multiply by ten this year.
I think that they guys they brought in, in just the little bit of football that we've played so far, are extremely skillful. Obviously we haven't played on a big field yet though, but in this day and age it is the best athlete that you can possibly be, the better player that you are going to be. When you look across the world the players are getting younger, faster, stronger. There's a lot of excitement and we're hoping that everybody competes and I think that's what John and Gavin and Merritt, the club. As a whole I think that is what the coaching staff has done, made a competitive environment at every position and I think that is the way you create a successful team.
On his goals for the preseason
I think for me it is always being as fit as you possibly can then working on the football. Obviously your touch is going to go a little bit when you aren't playing day in and day out, but I think you can always take care of yourself. I know the biggest thing for me personally though is just making sure I get my touch back, get back back on the ball and positionally working with the guys in front of me.
The most important thing is, you get through all the individual stuff, but collectively getting together as a group, going through the double days and having that bonding that I missed last year with the guys which is important. I think that makes a good team. I am looking forward to the challenges of the language barrier between some of the guys and breaking that down and hopefully by the time March 12th comes along be more of a cohesive unit.
On his seniority on the team and the responsibility that comes with that
I am just focusing on playing for the most part. I will leave the other stuff to Troy or Jack and John. I'll do whatever they ask me to do, but the main thing for me is just to lead by example. Just staying after it, doing the little things, being a good professional and along the way I will pull a guy aside and help him from all the experience that I have had over the years and the guys that I have played with. It's my responsibility to do that just as a veteran older player, but I have got stuff to prove for myself too, especially establishing myself in my seventh year as a professional. It's time I make a mark and I think it is a big year for me. It is a big year for everybody and for the organization and I think that everybody has the motivation that they need, coming off the last season.
On the games he is looking forward to
I want to play the champs so I am looking forward to that game. I am looking forward to playing Houston again. I think they got our number last year. I am looking forward to the guys that we have picked up. I think that we have added a little bit of muscle to our team, a little bit of bite, which I think is something that as a whole we lacked a little bit those last couple games. I think that comes with character and experience. Not to put anything against our team but I think that some of these guys, even the experienced ones we picked up from Colombia, I think that is going to help us a lot.
As far as other teams, I think every game is going to be important from minute one on March 12th to to the last game of the season back here we just have to make sure we maximize every single game and give ourselves the best chance so that we're not scraping away at the end of the season.