At Jeld-Wen Field today, the Portland Timbers practiced in the rain, preparing for Real Salt Lake's arrival ahead of the their match on Saturday. Practice was closed after The Timbers concluded their usual jogging and games of keep away.
Set up on the pitch in preparation for use were a pair of tiny goals that have been made famous by the "Little Timbers" during half time at Timbers games. After practice, goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack alluded to them being used for 2v2 and 3v3 games but they were never in use while the press was allowed on the field. (I have been playing a lot of FIFA Street recently and really wanted to see some tiny goals in action!)
After a day of rehab on Tuesday and rest yesterday, Kalif Alhassan was back training with the team and participated in the full practice. Alhassan looked recovered from his groin strain, suffered against New England, although he did head inside directly after practice concluded while the rest of the team continued to work individually.
David Horst continued to warm-up with the team as he works his way back to fitness, but went inside after the initial running to continue his workout in the gym.
Trialist left back Kasili Casal is still with the team, having returned from playing with the Timbers reserves in San Jose. As a left-sided back and midfielder, Casal will have to show very well to get signed and may just be working out with the team to stay fit.
During the team's post practice workouts, Franck Songo'o took a turn in goal and blocked several shots, although he was never called on to dive for them. He even corralled one rip from John Spencer who looked somewhat chagrined to have been turned away by a field player.
Kris Boyd, although trying some audacious moves while taking shots after practice, looked frustrated with his finishing as he knocked a number of balls wide of the goal.
(I have to get to work, so quotes from Mike Chabala and Andrew Jean-Baptiste will get put up later on tonight.)
On the attitude in practice this week
If coach tells us to do something then we just have to do what he is saying because 100% of the time it is right. He talks to the coaches and he sits us down and he talks with us. If he is wrong or he is right, nobody has ever said, 'no, coach'.
We came out poor. You saw it. That is another thing. We're going to come out strong in this game when we are back at home, back at Jeld-Wen.
On playing in front of the Timbers Army
It feels good. I didn't play that many minutes in the two away games with the Timbers Army not behind me. When I got in to the New England game I still saw the 80 people there for us. Now that I am back home, I feel better.
On establishing a strong home field advantage
When you come home that needs to be a guaranteed win. When you come home, this is your field, this is your house. You can't let anybody come into your house and mess things up. They are going to come in to our field and we're going to put it to them.
On the biggest difference between college and pro soccer
The speed of play. I mean, we play on the wet turf, it rains a lot out here, so it is a little faster than I am used to but slowly I am adapting to it. It was a little bit different when we went out to New England. They didn't wet their turf and the ball slowed up a bit. It is just faster. There are better players. There's things that you can't get away with here that you could in college.
On organizing the back line with Troy Perkins
The last keeper I had back at UConn was a vocal person too. Coach doesn't expect me to be quiet. He wants me to be loud, he wants me to be vocal, he wants me to organize the back. Yeah, there's Brunner. Yeah, there's Perkins, but it needs to come from everybody, not just me. No matter how young or old you are, you have to communicate on the field.
On playing Real Salt Lake on Saturday
Every game is very important because we need to get as much points as possible to get to the playoffs. I think that this game is going to be very important in the sense that it is a western conference team and our conference is very tough, so we need to get as much points as possible from the teams that are in our conference. It is only the top five teams in your conference that are going to make the playoffs. There is no wild card play in, so we just need to get as much points as possible. Especially against a team like Salt Lake. It will be difficult when we go there to get points, so we need to get as much points as possible at home.
On the importance of bouncing back after a loss
The guys, the staff, the club, the fans were disappointed with the game on Saturday. Everyone thought that was a game we should have won.
We need points and every team is going to come play hard against us because they know what we did last year and what we are capable of doing. They know we are a good team, so they are going to come hard, especially teams like New England. They wanted to prove a point. They were at home and I think we took it for granted. We just have to take every team as if it is a Salt Lake or a L.A. and go out there guns blazing and fight for the three points.
On taking wins for granted
With all our additions and the way we have been paying through the preseason, our home opener, the game against Dallas we've been playing well so we think New England, they have lost two games on the trot so we should win this game easily, but we need to have a mindset that every game we have to go out and play as if it is the home opener against Philly.
On Real Salt Lake
They are one of the best teams in the league and they have proven it game in and game out. They went to L.A. and beat them 3-1. Coming here, yeah it is the Timbers and we have the Timbers Army behind us, I am sure that is not going to get them nervous. They are a great team and a great bunch of guys. They are going to come here and play, despite the atmosphere so we have to be up for the challenge.
They are going to be motivated but for us, we have to be motivated. We will be motivated because we are coming off a loss against New England and that was a game that everyone thinks we should have won. Everyone is disappointed so we are back on the training pitch, working hard, and knowing that a game against Salt Lake is going to be a tough one and we have to be up for the challenge.
On playing as a holding midfielder with the reserves against San Jose
It was a bit of a surprise, but they just needed me to do a job and get on the ball so I just did the best I possibly could. I thought I did well for not really being comfortable or familiar in there. I thought we should have won the game, we just lacked some composure and that little bit of precision in the attacking third which let us down. They had maybe two opportunities and their goal was a little bit soft. We didn't put pressure on the ball at the top of the box. It is what it is. Reserve games are good for guys like myself who haven't had minutes to get 90 minutes and, if John selects me, to be fit and game ready.
On captaining the reserves
I think after seven years I have gained a little bit of experience along the way. I think I am able to lead and help guys that are younger come along. I have been in the kind of reserve situations. I grew up in them, essentially, since I have been a pro. They are familiar so Iwas just able to kind of help the guys and motivate them some. It is difficult when you are playing at ten or eleven o'clock in the morning in front of fifty fans and after traveling to Boston and back to Portland then down to San Jose. It is a bit of a grind, but the minutes are there to be taken. It is a game to win and when you are wearing the Portland jersey you want to make sure that you put your best performance out there, whatever your motivation might be. Whether it is just getting the minutes or trying to get on the first team, those games are important whether there are twenty of them or ten. You just have to make the most of them.
On staying ready to step in and play
You have to keep your body as close to game fit and keep up with the guys that are playing 90 minutes, because that is the standard, the expectation. If I do, when I do get the opportunity to step on I want to perform well and impress my coach and whoever else is watching.
On his bright orange boots
These are the new wave of cleats. I was watching the Champions' League and they had all the Nike guys wearing them. Yesterday, watching AC Milan and Barcelona, I was super excited to come in the locker room today though and see the new boots. I love them. They are great. They are a bit more comfortable than the old ones so they are great. They are a bit flashy, so if anybody knows my personality it kind of matches perfectly so I like them.
-You can find a picture of the boots in question here (http://theoriginalwinger.com/2012-03-19-nike-mercurial-vapor-8). In person they are blindingly bright. I recommend sunglasses if you find yourself in close proximity to them.