The Portland Timbers' training today took place at Jeld-Wen Field in the usual Portland spring weather. Practice consisted of the usual warm-ups, overseen by new fitness coach John Ireland, and a half-field game followed by more running to close out practice.
The cool down running, according to John Spencer, was intended to maintain the team's strength and fitness when the coaching staff felt not enough running had occurred in the course of practice. It was not, he emphasized, a punishment or a reaction to the team's overall level of fitness.
More practice notes, plus quotes from John Spencer and Jack Jewsbury after the jump.
Although present during the warm-ups both Kalif Alhassan, who reportedly practiced yesterday, and Troy Perkins, who was only present for part of practice, headed inside early to continue their training. When asked about their condition after practice, Spencer joked that the two were on a lunch date. Getting serious, he added that both were experiencing some soreness and had gone inside to work on that.
Defender David Horst also warmed up with the team but headed inside before the usual game of keep-away. Horst's recovery from off-season hip surgery has reportedly gone very well, although he is still weeks, if not months, away from being able to play.
- While some players struggled with some of Ireland's stretches that required balance, Troy Perkins looked as graceful as a ballerina.
- Eric Brunner exhibited some slick dribble early on in the half-field game, dribbling around two players much like Jonny Steele did to him on Saturday night.
- Several players got into trouble trying to beat too many men on the dribble during practice including Wallace, Palmer, and Songo'o.
- In an incident that surely had Spencer wringing his hands for a moment, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Bright Dike knocked heads while contesting a ball in the air. Each stayed down for a minute but both were up and back in the play after a brief stoppage.
- Charles Renken impressed in practice with some pinpoint passing and good looks. His composure on the ball is impressive.
- None of the outside backs did much to distinguish themselves this practice, with Lovel Palmer and Mike Chabala neutralizing each other, while on the other side Ryan Kawulok and Steve Purdy did the same with Rodney Wallace.
- Palmer did show well in anticipating the runs of Jorge Perlaza and playing good balls into space for the Colombian to run on to.
In keeping with the guest keepers of previous practices, Mike Chabala took a turn in goal while his teammates took shots after practice. Unlike Songo'o or Sebastian Rincon last week, Chabala seemed to be doing his best to stay away from the ball rather than saving it. Patches O'Houlihan would have been proud of his dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and dodging.
On what it will take to get past the loss to Salt Lake
You know what, I think the page was turned yesterday. You've got to move on. I think that, as I say, the only page that needed turning is three minutes, four minutes, to the end of the game. I think for 87 minutes it is well documented we created enough chances to win two games, let alone one game. If you take your chances, you win the games. There is a lot of positives still happening and we're a positive group.
On the tone in practice this week
Shock and disappointment, I think that is probably the best way to describe it. You're sitting in the locker room and saying, how the hell did we lose the game? The story is, we lost the game. That's the truth. For us, it is about coming out this weekend with the same energy, just a little bit more concentration and communication. I think that if we put in a similar type performance we won't be far away from winning the game.
On if the team was playing "not to lose" at the end of the game against Real Salt Lake
No, I don't think so. I think we sat too deep. The back four sat too deep. The midfield four sat too deep. There's just individual errors; not closing the ball down quick enough. You give good players time around the eighteen yard box to deliver a cross or a pass... we've been punished for that two weeks in a row. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but we've got to move on. You can't dwell on it.
On losing two in a row
I have to say, I think it was a disappointing performance in New England, I don't think it was a disappointing performance here. It was a disappointing result, but for 87 minutes we put on a great show, entertained people, played some wonderful soccer, created an unbelievable amount of chances, scored two goals, and when you see all of them things it is kind of hard to believe you never won the game. 2-1 up at 87 minutes, we know we can't continue to do that. We did that a couple times last year and I felt that we were over the hump but that is what good teams are made of, us coming out this weekend and proving that we are a good team and Salt Lake doing what they did: being 2-1 down at 88 minutes. You've got to give them a lot of credit there. They're a quality team.
On moving Darlington Nagbe to a central position
I just felt that with his pace most defensive midfield players in the country will struggle with him. Tenminutes into the game he was a little too deep. There was a couple of times that we broke through the middle and [Diego Chara] was on the end of the pass that I felt that if Darlington was there, you'd get a different end result, so that is why we brought Diego a little bit to the right side of the diamond and put Darlington at the point. I think it was a move that suited him and eventually he gets a couple of goals as we moved him on top by that time. He's just a quality footballer. It is just him having the belief to go and show what he is capable of doing.
You will see a better performance, but it was one of the best performances since he's put on a Portland Timbers uniform for sure.
I think that you've got to look at the situation with the injuries that we've had. We don't have [Kalif Alhassan], we don't have [Sal Zizzo], we don't have [Franck Songo'o] fit and ready yet, so we had to bring him to the right side. If we'd had those guys fit and healthy then he'd probably have played up front from the start. He does prefer to play in the middle whether it be as a second forward, whether it be partnering Kris Boyd outright, or just at the point of the diamond. He's very, very adaptable. That's what good players do: they adapt to different situations, different positions. Anywhere in the attacking half of the field and he is going to cause you problems.
On Franck Songo'o's fitness
Actually, before the injury against OSU, he told me that he wanted to play all the preseason games here at Jeld-Wen, the three games that were Monday, Thursday, Sunday or something. Then he gets injured twelve minutes into the OSU game. He felt before that he wasn't 90 minute fit and we knew that with him it is just a matter of getting him games. Obviously, the injury is a huge setback for him and he is just trying to get his fitness back, but he's probably getting to be a 25-30 minute player. The problem is that if you start him from the start of the game you basically only get two subs because you know that you'll spend one on him because he can't last the 90 minutes and you can't take chances and gambles at this level.
On the running that took place at the end of practice
The modern game is all about running, so if we don't get enough out of the session that we've planned and there's a day off tomorrow, the guys have got to work. Every club in the country, as we speak, is probably doing similar type exercises. It's not a punishment, I think we've actually played well.
On fitness coach John Ireland
He brings a lack of height. I like that in my staff. I don't like looking up at people. I am sick and tired of looking up to [Dan Itel, writer for mlssoccer.com] here. It gives me a crick in my neck, so lack of height, which I love. Under 5'6" is a major requirement for my staff.
He brings a lot of experience. I worked with him in Colorado as a player for the last three years of my career and felt that he really helped me extend my career with his philosophies and mentality. He's worked with the Colorado Rapids that won a championship, he's also worked with the Colorado lacrosse team that won a championship so he is familiar with working with top class athletes. Not just here, he worked in the premiership in Derby County for a few months as well.
On Kalif Alhassan and Troy Perkins
They've got a lunch date together I believe. They are away. Enjoying lunch.
Maybe Kalif is still a little bit sore, with his groin. Maybe a little bit of stiffness in there. So let's just try and get him through certain elements of practice and then shut him down so he doesn't lose too much fitness.
On what makes for a good set-piece
It is a combination of things. Obviously, where I put the ball, first and foremost, is important and I think our guys have done a great job in the past year of making good runs and getting on the end of it. So for me, I feel like if I put it in a good spot we'll get chances and if we get enough of those chances we will put a few away and get us some key goals in a league where set-pieces can be very important.
Last year we were very good on set-pieces and I think that's something, here on our field especially, that can be crucial in getting points. We've got a number of guys that are some big boys in there, so it is a matter of me putting it in a good spot because they do a good job of beating their guy and getting on the end of them.
On breaking down defensive teams like Chivas USA
I feel like we've gotten in some good places to deliver the ball, it is just the final pass needs to be a bit crisper and then we'll get in situations to put the ball away and get the early lead. We had a few chances last game to go up 1-0 in the first half and we kind of squandered those chances so it is just a matter of continuing to get those chances and now being a little bit more confident in front of goal.