Today the Portland Timbers first team practiced at Jeld-Wen Field while the reserves were on the road to take on the San Jose Earthquakes. The Timbers had a lively practice, playing their usual game of keep away before moving down the pitch for a short field game.
During the team's early warm-ups, injured defender David Horst did some light running with the group before heading inside to continue his rehabilitation from off-season hip surgery. Although Horst is still a ways out from his projected return in July, it is encouraging to see him working with the team again.
Kalif Alhassan also left the pitch after the warm-ups, during which he was running at half speed.
No information was available during practice about his absence. [Update] Alhassan suffered a groin strain against New England so he spent time working on his physical therapy and rehab today, according to the Timbers front office.
More notes from practice plus quotes from
Jake Gleeson and Franck Songo'o after the jump.
A notable addition to today's practice was Jake Gleeson, freshly returned from his successful stint with New Zealand's U-23's. Gleeson looked sharp and made several quality saves during the short field game later on in practice. He did, however, bobble the ball on several occasions, something that was a problem for him in the preseason.
During the short sided game, the players that stood out the most were Rodney Wallace, Eric Alexander, and Kris Boyd.
Rodney Wallace was in good attacking form early on and saw a lot of the ball. On several occasions he was able to beat Lovel Palmer on the dribble and served in several crosses, but not much came of them. Although he did not have much luck getting his shots on goal, Wallace was one of the only players shooting with any regularity and started to look more and more dangerous as the game progressed. However, by the end of the match Palmer was having some good success getting past Wallace and serving good balls into the box after being shut down early on.
Eric Alexander, who was paired up in the attack with Kris Boyd and Darlington Nagbe, was the player through whom all of his team's offense flowed. Alexander did not look afraid to take on his man with the ball at his feet and saw quite a bit of success beating his defender on the dribble. Although he lacks the flair of Alhassan or Franck Songo'o, Alexander uses his speed and ability to change direction well to create space for himself. The back passes that many criticized him for during the Timbers' games this season were nowhere to be found as most of Alexander's possessions ended in a shot or a cross. If he can bring this type of attacking mentality against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, there is every possibility that he could hang on to his starting position.
During practice Kris Boyd did exactly what he should be doing: scoring goals. Early on in the short field game, Boyd found himself in a one on one situation with Troy Perkins and did well to just chip the ball into the back of the net as Perkins slid in to dispossess him. Later on in the match, Boyd executed another chip, this one from in traffic near the top of the penalty box, that was placed perfectly past the outstretched arm of Perkins and into corner of the goal. Boyd also found the net a number of other times and was by far the most involved forward on the day.
Some other thoughts from practice:
- Early on in the game, Spencer was marking Boyd and shouting "Shoot it!" while vigorously trying to dispossess him. Rather than shooting, Boyd cut back and the ball fell to his teammate Diego Chara who shot high.
- Darlington Nagbe was not very effective in the short field game as he was on the opposite wing from Eric Alexander who was directing the offense for their team. The small size of the field also did Nagbe no favors as he had little room in which to roam and run at players.
- Franck Songo'o appeared to have taken a knock on his ankle while shooting but was able to run it off. He did appear to be less active than normal for much of the match, but was back in the thick of things by the end of practice.
- Jorge Perlaza struggled with his shooting today, not managing to put much on net. He did, however, successfully tap in a square ball from about 2 feet out.
- John Spencer showed off some great touches on the ball, including an impressively controlled hard pass that seemed to suddenly stick to his foot two feet up in the air.
- To close practice the team took free kicks from the top of the 18. The most impressive belonged to James Marcelin, who rocketed his shot into the side netting. Spencer also managed an impressive feat, being the only person to freeze Troy Perkins on his run-up. It is unclear if any mustaches will be grown as a result of this.
Goal of the Practice:
During the short field game, Eric Alexander played a long cross to Lovel Palmer at the back post that Palmer volleyed out of the air from six yards out into the back of the net. In my notepad I wrote "crushed it" and underlined that several times.
I will get some quotes from Jake Gleeson and Franck Songo'o up later on this afternoon.
[Update] Here are some Franck Songo'o quotes. Jake Gleeson also spoke about his time with the New Zealand national team at practice today and you can expect those quotes to accompany a brief write-up about their qualifying run to the Olympics tomorrow.
On getting on the pitch last Saturday
I am just happy to be part of the team, to come on the pitch and try to help the team. We didn't get the result we wanted so I will keep working and hopefully get another chance on Saturday.
On his impact on the game against the New England Revolution
I don't think I changed anything. I think that the guys just realized that we weren't playing the way we were supposed to. We changed that and we had more chances. We were pushing them but we did not score, so maybe we were too late, but hopefully we can start fresh for next Saturday's game.
On his health
My ankle was bothering me just a little bit, but hopefully I will be prepared for Saturday.
On reserve team games
If you are not in the position to get games, or even if you are with the first team and don't play 90 minutes, when you go away with the reserve team you will play. There are great players there, so it is always good to improve and work hard.
On potentially getting more playing time this weekend
I feel good for that. I will keep working hard and then it will be the coach's decision on Saturday.
On his preferred side
I really don't care about which side I am on the pitch with Eric and Kalif. We talk about it. We don't care. Sal, also. We talk about it and he doesn't care which side. All of us can play anywhere.