The Portland Timbers held a closed practice today at Jeld-Wen field ahead of their impending match up against the Columbus Crew. With both the Timbers and Crew near the bottom of the league table, the pressure is on for the Timbers to find a win but the mood around practice seemed upbeat.
Perhaps the most interesting news out of practice today came from a tweet by Mike Donovan.
@TheMikeDonovan During full-field 11v11s at Timbers practice this morning, Jack Jewsbury was playing RB. #RCTID
Jewsbury has played at right back before for the Kansas City Wizards, but this would be his first time lining up at the position for the Timbers. Given the Timbers ongoing issues at the position, it does not seem outside the relm of possibility that Jewsbury could wind up providing cover at rightback against Columbus.
After starting the week with a number of players missing, the Timbers saw their numbers on the field start to grow again. Kalif Alhassan, who is working his way back from a knee sprain, was jogging around the field at the beginning of practice. This appearance is Alhassan's first on the pitch since his injury. David Horst and Futty Danso were on the pitch today as well, rejoining the team after spending Tuesday working out in the team gym.
More practice notes plus quotes from Eric Brunner and Jack Jewsbury after the jump.
Jake Gleeson, who has been in and out of practice as he struggles with a knee injury, started practice with the team, but was not on the pitch when the press was let back on to the field. Notably, pool keeper Brian Rowe was no longer training with the team, likely signifying the Timbers' belief that they have got at least two fully healthy keepers. Troy Perkins, who was a game-time decision according to John Spencer on Tuesday, participated in the full practice today and, although he did not talk to the press, looked every bit like he intended to play. Perkins was wearing a custom-made clear plastic mask to protect the gash in his nose.
UPDATE: Mike Donovan points out that Rowe was filling in as backup for LA last night while Josh Saunders is out.
Missing from today's practice were Steve Purdy and Steven Smith. Purdy will miss the rest of the week as he recovers from a concussion suffered during a collision with Montreal's Justin Mapp. Smith is overseas finalizing his P-1 visa which will allow him to play in the United States and, according to the Timbers' front office, is expected back in Portland tomorrow.
- After practice every Timbers forward was still on the pitch working on their finishing with the exception of Darlington Nagbe.
- Bright Dike turns and shoots very well. He strikes the ball hard and low. Seems like a shame that he has only played 138 minutes for the MLS Timbers.
- Kris Boyd had a very nicely weighted chip over Joe Bendik. It brought to mind the highlight reel of every one of his goals: mostly scored with finesse rather than power.
- Boyd seems to be taking his role as a leader of this team to heart. Although Cameron Knowles was on the pitch still it seemed like Boyd was running the finishing drills. He also spent a fair amount of time talking to Sebastian Rincon between shots.
- While watching the forwards after practice I noticed Bendik doing hand stands out on the field.
- As Perkins and Bendik headed off the field, both took several shots on goal. Perkins did not strike me as much of a forward, but Bendik had an acrobatic jumping side volley that impressed.
- Finally, Charles Renken, as has been the case in the last several practices, was still kicking a ball against the wall long after everyone else had headed inside.
On the mood of the team
I think that we have got to put it behind us. We haven't had the results that we've wanted this season so far. I think that we are all pretty determined that we want to come out here at Jeld-Wen and make this our fortress again and we definitely want to win for the fans.
On what changes the Timbers need to make
[We need] the desire and the passion. We need to step up and leave it all on the field. I'm not saying that the guys aren't doing that now, but we all need to do it. As far as formation stuff, we stand behind whatever John wants us to do, the style that he wants us to play, and that is kind of the mantra that we have had.
On if having Joe Bendik in goal rather than Troy Perkins affects his role
It doesn't. They are both really good goal keepers, they both played over in Europe, and whoever is back there is expected to step up just like everyone else that comes on the field. We have 100% confidence in whoever comes in on the field because they are here for a reason.
On Troy Perkins playing after his injury
No one wants to get left out of the line-up and I think that everyone is pushing each other for positions, which is what you need to get better.
On changes and injuries in the team's defense
It's tough but we are all professionals. We all know our roles on the field and what is expected out of us and that doesn't change regardless of who is back there.
On scoring the winning goal against Columbus last year
I put it behind me as soon as I scored it. It was fun. It was a good game. Hopefully we can replicate it this weekend.
On the Timbers' success at scoring from free kicks last year versus this year
I think that teams are recognizing that we are pretty dangerous on there and I think that we have had a few opportunities, maybe one that was a [penalty kick] that should have been called against Chivas at home. We've had our chances, we just need to put them in.
On his connection with his former teammates in Columbus
I speak to them still. They are having a little bit of a rough patch for them as well, I know, so I don't really speak to them as much. A couple of guys that I am good friends with I keep in tough with.
On Columbus Crew and USMNT defender Chad Marshall
I learned a heck of a lot from him. He's a very proven player. He has been in the league for a while, he's a two time defender of the year. I was fortunate enough to play alongside him and I learned a lot of things from him and not only that but I built a great relationship with him. He's a very good friend of mine and he's one of the guys I still talk to.
On beating Columbus 1-0 twice last year
If you were to say that we would get a 1-0 win right now I would definitely take it. I don't know if we need more than one. I think defensively when we have kept teams from getting a ton of chances we have been at our best. Group defending we have continued to work on here all week and we expect it to be a tight game. They are a group that likes to play. Their midfield is pretty tight internally and we have got to make sure that we are aware of that, but at the same time I think that the main focus is on ourselves and how we approach the game.
On what the team needs to do to get a result
Whether you are a defender or a forward you have got to work on both sides of the ball. As a group we realize that we have got to get a bit better. For me especially, in the midfield we've got to work both ways, from box to box and try to create chances, but at the same time we know that they have got some dangerous players to be aware of and try to stop them on the other end. I think this group has it in us. We've got some very dangerous guys going forward. There is times in the season when goals are tough to come by but hopefully we can get quite a few in this weekend.
On scouting Columbus who are missing several forwards
I think that you can look at the last few games. We've done so, we will do it again tomorrow. I think that Eddie Gavin is one of the guys that makes them tick and has for quote a few years now, so we've got to be aware of him no matter where he is at on the field because he has that free role for them.
On if Saturday's game against Columbus is a "must win"
I don't know if you would put that title to it, but everyone in the lockerroom knows how important it is for us as a group and our confidence moving forward. We know that we have better soccer in front of us and that we are better than what we showed in Montreal.
On this run of bad form compared to last year's
There are some differences between them but the majority of this group was there last year and we realize that you have got to come in every day and work hard, not only in the games but on the training field as well, to get out of that bit of a slump that we were in. I think that guys realize that throughout the year you are going to have some ups and downs. It is just a matter of continuing to fight and work your way through it.
On the mood of the team
To be honest, [it is] fairly upbeat. We realize that we didn't put in the right effort last week to get a result no matter where you go at home or away and [we are] looking to get better this weekend against a tough Columbus team.
On the game of "Butts Up" being played after practice on Tuesday
A few coaches have said it best, when you are high you have got to make sure you don't get too high, but at the same time when things aren't going well make sure you keep your head up. Bright had that coming for about two weeks so it was time for him to get in between the posts and it was a big target for us to hit so it was nice for us to have some fun after training.
On coping with a run of bad form
It is tough as a player. You probably watch more game tape when you are struggling. When times are good you come out here and it is a breeze. Last year we were going through that period when we were five wins in a row at home. We didn't do as much film then. When you are going through the tough ones, everyone wants to get better. For me it is a matter of going home for a few hours and getting away from it with the family. It is pretty easy when your three year old and your three month old give you a smile when you come home so it kind of puts it all in perspective.
(Here someone joked that the kids were not checking the standings and Jewsbury jokingly responded, "Not every day.")