The Timbers trained today at Jeld-Wen Field in preparation for their first Cascadia Cup match of the year. With the match against the Vancouver Whitecaps tomorrow night, practice was closed after warm-ups.
For the first time this season the Timbers were missing no players due to injury at practice today. Although Steve Purdy and Jake Gleeson had already left for national team duty, Futty Danso and Jack Jewsbury participated fully in the team's warm-up drills. Both Danso and Jewsbury sounded like game time decisions in John Spencer's remarks after practice, although it sounded less likely that Danso would play given how easy it can be to reaggravate a hamstring injury.
Trialist Stefan Riess was still with the team as well. With practice closed it is hard to get a bead on what position Riess has lined up in for the Timbers as he has played at both CM and RM previously. However, in a small 5v5 game that some Timbers were playing after practice Riess seemed to be staying out wide.
Jose Adolfo Valencia was out on the field during practice for the second time this week. Valencia jogged laps around the pitch during warm-ups before heading inside to continue his long recovery from knee surgery.
More Timbers practice notes plus quotes form John Spencer and Mike Chabala after the jump.
- MLS pool keeper and
SalemEugene native Brian Rowe was not with the Timbers today and will be filling in as a back-up for the Seattle Sounders this weekend in their match against Chivas USAthe Philadelphia Union.
- The 5v5 game that the Timbers were playing featured Riess, Cameron Knowles, Ryan Kawulok, Brent Richards, Andrew Jean Baptiste, Charles Renken, Sebastian Rincon, Chris Taylor, and Freddie Braun.
- Troy Perkins was wearing a rugby-style scrum cap in practice today.
- AJB stepped in to goal while Mike Chabala, Rodney Wallace, and Eric Alexander took some penalty kicks before heading to the locker room and even managed to save one.
On the Vancouver Whitecaps
Obviously they've gotten of to a good start and I think that [Martin Rennie] has got the players playing for him. As I say, they've added a couple of good players to their roster: Sebastian LeToux, as we all know from the Pacific Northwest with Seattle, is a good player, very dangerous, with good pace. I'd say they are on a decent run right now, but it is a long season.
On the outlook of the team
I think that we're looking forward to the game. This is one of the big games that you enjoy playing in, especially the Cascadia rivalry. I spoke to the guys about that this morning. We've prepared well. I think that we've got the right players coming into form at the right time and we're really looking forward to the game. We want to put in a good performance.
On what he told the team about the rivalry
I just said that the Cascadia rivalry has been in the history of the three clubs for a long time and it is important that we do well in this. It is like a mini competition within Major League Soccer. There are bragging rights for the fans, bragging rights for being the top of the Cascadia Cup at the end of the year, who has got the most points gets that trophy, so we'll be looking to get off to a good start agaisnt them tomorrow.
On how to keep the players from getting too wound up for the match against Vancouver
We know that the players are not dumb. They know what the rivalry is all about, but it is important that you don't let your emotions run crazy and pick up yellow cards early in the game or pick up reds, then it puts you on the back foot. For us it is another big game here, but, as I say, the fans are so close and so ingrained in soccer in the Northwest that bragging rights is a big thing. I am very familiar with Celtic and Rangers so I know what rivalries are all about. For us it will be a big weekend and we are looking forward to trying to get three points.
On the players' reactions to the Cascadia Cup in their second year in MLS
I think that when you take almost a thousand fans up to Vancouver to play a game, when the players come out to look at the field before the game they see that and they realize that it is very, very important to a lot of people and for the players they want to put a show on and make sure that for the first big derby game of the year we get maximum points.
On the importance of getting a win going into a long MLS break
We haven't won as many games as we want to, so we need to go out tomorrow and approach the game with the right mentality. We need to go out and approach the game thinking that three games is a must, especially from home games. This western conference is tough but you want to go into a break, an MLS break, on a high. Obviously that high comes back down to normality when you play in the open cup on Wednesday night.
We know what is at stake, we know what we need to do, and it is down to the individual players, when they step on that field, to go win the game.
On Vancouver's improvement from last season
You don't win championships ten games in to the year. You'll be judged at the end of the season whether you've turned your fortunes around. I don't think anybody should be judged at this time of year.
On the team's current level of confidence after going undefeated for three games
I think our confidence is amazing right now.
I think that when you lose games in the manner that we did, it saps your self-belief at times. I think that the recent run of results balenced the ship mentally for us and I don't think that we fear going in to games or fear the last ten minutes of games as much as we did a couple of weeks ago.
It's a funny league. You look at teams that never made playoffs last year and you look where they are sitting inthe table now and they've got a lot of points and a lot of wins. San Jose almost has got as many wins as they got all of last year. It's a very close league. It's a league where a lot of players do well when they are fully confident and it is amazing how quick your fortunes can turn around.
On if the offense is improving
We need to get our creative players on the field. They're no good to us when they are sitting on the treatment table like with [Kalif Alhassan]'s groin injury or the knee injury that set him back. We've got them near enough, as close to match fit as we can get them without them playing games, so now they need to start playing. I think that getting [Sal Zizzo] in the game last week was a good bonus for him and a good boost for us. You've got to play your best players and the best players will be playing.
On the Timbers next eleven games all being against western conference opponents
The thing is, we just take it one game at a time.
We deal with this game and then we aren't looking at two weeks down the line when we play another western conference team, we're looking at the California team that is going to come here in the Open Cup. We take it day by day. Every game is a big game, especially against western conference opponents, but right now the only game that we're worried about is against Vancouver coming up.
On Jack Jewsbury and Futty Danso
Jack has trained the last couple of days and feels good. Futty, with a hamstring injury, it is a very conniving injury at times. You feel that you are okay, then all off a sudden you get into the game and you forget about the injured muscle and you make a natural movement and all of a sudden you've pulled your hamstring again. We need to be very careful. It's one of the worst injuries that you can get, because if you don't look after them properly the first time then they can effect you the full year and that is the last thign we need with Futty.
On the intensity that he brings to the pitch and if that intensity is needed in a rivalry match like tomorrow's
I think that even last year, if you go back to the Houston game, I think that one of the things that we lacked was a little bit of grit. It is kind of my personaly though. I'm a passionate player that likes to leave everything on the pitch and I am going to give everything that I've got.
I think that anytime you have a rivalry match or a playoff match those things sometimes come into play, those extra factors like in the Kansas City game when it was a battle before it was an actual soccer game. Sometimes that is just what the game gives you and you just have to take it. The most important thing is just to make sure that on the day you come ready to play and then see how things unfold after the opening whistle.
On the importance of the Cascade Cup
When I first came here I read about it on Wikipedia and on the blogs and stuff. The tradition goes back pretty far and it is something that this city takes seriously as do Seattle and Vancouver as well. I don't think that everybody really knows or realizes the history behind the club and what it really means,but any time you can win a trophy and put some hardware behind you it is important regardless of if it is MLS Cup or Cascadia Cup.
It's a good opportunity for guys to step up and to be recognized as the best team in the Northwest, which seems, these days, to be Soccer America, if you will. It is where everything is really happening and where most of the excitement really is in the country, so we need to make sure that we are stepping up and making sure that we are the best team. It is a good opportunity for us tomorrow.
On if the intensity of the Cascadia derby will surprise some of the newcomers to the team
Yeah, probably. I think that even with five and a half years of experience, coming in here last year I was surprised, first off, with just the Timbers Army and the atmosphere, especially during those Cascadia matches. I didn't get to have many of them though because of the timing of when I moved, but that Vancouver game was the first one when I was here and it was actually a pretty special one just to be able to have that understanding of the history and also the passion of the fans behind it and how important it is to be beating those teams that are in your backyard.
On his level of comfort at right back, should he get the start over Jewsbury
I'm more comfortable with my left foot but I'm kind of ambidexterous. I'm more comfortable with my left foot but I am good with my right foot as well. Most importantly, as of late the games that I've been getting in we've kept clean sheets. In the past four [games that I played in] we won two and tied two. I'm not saying I am the sole reason for the exact results, but I think that the group that has been working has been working and, you know, you've got to take your opportunities when you get them.
There is a lot of good players and especially if you are juggling between Jack Jewsbury and Mike Chabala, I think those are two options that you are kind of happy with if that is what it is, but I can't [choose] the team and it's not my responcibility. My job is just to make things hard for coach on the day, so I am not sure of the line-up but regardless I know that we are going to put out a good team against Vancouver to get the job done.