With undefeated Sporting Kansas City coming to town tomorrow, the Portland Timbers held a closed practice at Jeld-Wen Field this morning. Reacclimatizing to Jeld-Wen's turf after a practice on the grass pitch of their new training facility yesterday, the Timbers had all hands on deck for practice today.
For the first time since picking up their respective injuries, James Marcelin and Rodney Wallace warmed up with the team today. As practice was being closed to the press the two broke off and headed inside, which was not unexpected on their first practice back, to continue their rehab indoors.
Joe Bendik, although he is still recovering from surgery on the meniscus of his right knee, was active in training with keeper coach Mike Toshack, Troy Perkins, and MLS pool keeper Brian Rowe, who is still with the team. Bendik participated in the beginning of training yesterday as well. Jake Gleeson, who is suffering from tightness of his IT band, did not practice but was observing from the entrance to the locker room at the end of the day.
Andreas Dober and Steven Smith, the Timbers two outside back trialists, did not practice today before the session was closed. However, both were spotted after practice. Smith, dressed in a practice kit, spent some time talking to Kris Boyd on the side of the field while Dober, in street clothes, stood with Gleeson at the locker room entrance.
Also not on the pitch today was Kalif Alhassan. Alhassan was all but confirmed by John Spencer to be out for tomorrow's game with a knee strain suffered against LA last weekend
- Sebastian Rincon, Charles Renken, and David Horst were split off to go work with the goal keepers on defending crosses and screened shots as practice was closed.
- Franck Songo'o was gone at the end of practice, which, while not definitive, is probably not a good sign for his chances at starting tomorrow.
- Brent Richards has some formidable skills in the air. While being served balls in the box after practice his headers were going right into the corner of the net over and over again.
- After practice was over and everyone else had headed inside, Renken was still taking shots on goal. He even threw in some fancy footwork from time to time.
On Kalif Alhassan
He's got a slight knee sprain that he picked up last week in the LA game. He hasn't trained all week so... We can't get guys healthy right now.
On the team's other injured players
Obviously we are still waiting to get [Futty Danso] and [David Horst] back, and [Sal Zizzo]. As I say, we're getting guys nearly there. It'll be nice to get to the day where we get a full clean bill of health.
On Jack Jewsbury's substitution against LA
His hamstrings were tight. We can't keep playing him and get him injured so I pulled him out. That was the reason for that.
He's trained the whole week so I think it was probably just fatigue.
On the consistency of Sporting Kansas City's starting line-up
I think that the proof is in the pudding. You get your best eleven guys out there, and they have got a lot of good players, once you get that continuity it helps. It breeds confidence. Guys get used to playing with each other, you know, they get to think what each other is thinking. The strike up good relationships, so it definitely does help. I think that reflects in the results.
On dealing with Sporting Kansas City's formation
I think they are a good team. I don't think it is just their formation. The way they work in their actual formation, I think what everybody forgets is that actual hard work they put in. Even a playmaker like Graham Zusi works his socks off as soon as the ball turns over.
Roger Espinoza must be one of the hardest working latino players that we've got in the league. He works his socks off and that is what I am saying. You can talk about any formation you want, any personnel you want, no matter how talented they are if you don't want to put the work in you're not going to win games. That's the modern game: don't work hard enough then you ain't going to win.
On the attitude of the Timbers playing against an undefeated team
I don't think the opposition come in to it. I think we need to concentrate on what we're good at. Yeah, we need to look at the opposition, but at the end of the day, if we play our way we are capable of beating anyone. We've shown that and I've said ti week in and week out. For sixty or seventy minutes of games, we've dominated the majority of the games we've played in, but we've lost them.
We need to cut out the silly mistakes and hopefully tomorrow night we do. It is going to be a tough game, so is every game in this league, but we look forward to it with confidence.
On the need to score early
You always look to go into games and to score early, but the most important thing is not to lose one early. Football is a ninety minute game. We could score at 89 minutes and win the game. We could also lose a goal at 89 minutes and lose it like what has happened to us on numerous occasions this season. The most important thing for us is to concentrate for the 90 minutes and, if we do that, we've got a great chance of winning the game.
On how to deal with Kansas City's physical play
You may have to ask me that tomorrow night after the game. I've played against big, physical teams before. We know our game plan. If we get it down and we pass it, we know we've got a great chance. It's up to us to get the ball down, to pass it, to be comfortable on the ball, to show confidence on the ball, create the passes that we know we can create, and then it is up to us as strikers to get in the box, get on the end of them, and try to get them in the net.
We know they are a big, physical team, but as I said, I've faced teams like that before and came out victorious. It is up to us to stamp our authority on the game early on and hopefully carry on from there.
On his performance against LA
I think that for my first 90 minutes of this season there was a lot of positives to take, but I would trade my performance in for a win any day of the week. It is an eleven man sport, we have to win as a team, so one performance doesn't make up everything but at the same time it does contribute.
I just think that we are trying to keep expressing ourselves going forward. There is a lot of great, talented guys in our attack that possess a lot of quality and I think we need to just stay with that and keep encouraging those guys to go forward and encouraging out outside backs to get forward. I think against them it was important for us to get forward, open the game up, and create some width because they play a box midfield.
On what the team needs to do against Sporting Kansas City
Getting forward and just trying to have some good, quality service in the box for Boydie is important. I was working on that this week and I think that just taking that fitness and just translating it to tomorrow night will help go a long way.
With this team coming in here, it is going to be important to stretch them out and to get behind them as well. A lot of teams play in front of them, so I think turning them around and making them defend will be important. I think we will have to test them. It kind of reminds me of LA last year: at home with a team coming in here, on fire, the talk of the league, et cetera.
I think this group needs to start putting a bit of a chip on their shoulder; take a little bit of pride in this stadium and our home town and our home field advantage.
On why the team have been giving up goals
I just think that we're just giving up silly mistakes. I don't think that we're keyed in for 90 minutes and I think when we take plays off, that is when we get hurt and I think it is one mistake that leads on to another mistake. I think that when you compound six or seven of those in a row it makes a big problem which sometimes we are getting punished for right now.
When things aren't going your way they keep going against you, so I think that we need to break that luck and make that change. I think it is important to have another opportunity on Saturday. When you are winning you want the games to keep coming as fast as they can and when you are losing you want the next one to come so you can change the writing on the wall and get the ship going back in the other direction.
We know we've got our hands full with a tough team, but that being said they train the same way as we do, they wake up the same way as we do. There is nothing different. They are just a hard working group that we just have to come in here and match up with. I am confident in this group that we can get it done.
On preparing for Kansas City
Just good video sessions and preparing this week like you do any other week. You learn, after a while, that you've got to just take every week as it comes and the game doesn't change, just the opponent does. You make sure that you are ready for whoever is coming at you and you know your position and role. The right side of the field has been pretty good for KC, so you know we'll have our hands full. It'll be exciting. I am looking forward to it.
On Kansas City right winger Kai Kamara
He has been sending me a lot of messages already. Making himself pretty comfortable here in Portland. Hopefully people around town are giving him a hard time.
He is an old buddy of mine. I played with him in Houston for a good period of my career. He's a good friend, a good play, and he's had a good start to the season. He was a great player in Houston and he has been a great player in Kansas City.
On getting out of a losing streak
I think it is veteran players stepping up and leading. I think it is putting the team on their backs and organizing and keeping guys tuned in holding guys responsible. I think that as a defensive player you have got to focus on those last minutes more than you do focus in on the attack.
When we get a goal, we shouldn't be like, oh shoot we need two or three to pull this game off. It should be, 1-0, that's enough. I think that getting back to that rugged, tenacious defending where you score one and that is it, we're not going to be giving up anything, is what this team needs to get back to. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It is a long season and I don't think that anybody is shaking their head going, oh gosh, here we go.
If you are told too many times, that shouldn't be the case. If you are told once, as a professional, you should make the correct changes and that should be the end of it. There is only so much the front office can do and the coaching staff can do. It all comes down to the players that are on the field and the ones that are selected to do the job.