On the day before attempting to break out of their current run of bad form against the Columbus Crew, the Portland Timbers held a short, closed practice at Jeld-Wen field. Although practice the day before a game is never long, today's ran about twenty minutes shorter than most pregame practices, with most of the team heading off of the pitch as the press were let back on to the field.
In injury news, midfielder Kalif Alhassan was once again jogging around the field as the team worked out. After practice, John Spencer would not speculate as to when Alhassan would be back in the line-up, only saying, "We're hoping to get him back on the field with the ball in the next seven to ten days." Steve Purdy continued to miss practice after suffering a concussion against Montreal last Saturday.
Steven Smith, who returns for the United Kingdom today after receiving his P1 visa, was confirmed to not be starting at left back for the Timbers tomorrow by Spencer, who a concern over the lack of practice and amount of travel that Smith has had this week. "[We] don't want to put him in a situation where his body is fatigued and he gets injured," Spencer said.
More practice notes plus quotes from John Spencer after the jump.
- During warm-ups, David Horst was often running next to Diego Chara or Darlington Nagbe both of whom are in the vicinity of a foot shorter than the big defender. It made for an interesting comparison when watching the agility drills during warm-ups.
- While dribbling around cones at the beginning of practice, Freddie Braun was putting in a little bit of extra flair: taking the cones on rather than just going around them.
- I couldn't point to an exact difference, but Brent Richards has been impressing me with his finishing for the last few practices. He seems like he has gotten much more comfortable in the professional environment (which may be part of why he made the bench against Montreal).
On Steven Smith
He's arriving today around lunch time. So, a quick turnaround on the visa. As I say, there is a good chance that he'll be on the bench tomorrow. It's too much traveling, flying here, to Montreal, then to the UK and back. We don't want to put him in a situation where his body's fatigued and he gets injured, so there is a good chance he'll be on the subs bench.
On Troy Perkins wearing a mask
I think he'd rather not wear it. How there wasn't any disciplinary action taken form the challenge is beyond me because I've seen some guys get suspended after games; notably, Shalrie Joseph off the top of my head. I look at the tackle and how Troy Perkins never lost and eye or broke his neck is beyond me.
On playing toward the Timbers Army
I think that teams come here and try to get us to kick away from the Timbers Army in the second half. I think that is a ploy for a lot of teams. It doesn't bother me, whatever side [we are on]. It's not like we kick away from them and they stop cheering or you don't hear any noise or anything. I don't think it makes a massive difference to us one way.
On scoring in front of the Timbers Army
Maybe they are like a magnet to the ball, maybe they are willing us to score goals. If you make too big a deal about it then opposing teams will come in and try to get us to shoot against that goal (Spencer looks to the south end) in the second half, but for me that is not the reason why you win or lose games. It is the reason that you need to go out and put in a good performance and hopefully give these fans something to cheer about.
On how the Timbers need to start against Columbus
I just think that we just need to start the game with confidence. There's nothing we can do about the games that are gone now, the last five or six games. It's in the past. There is nothing you can do about that now. All you can do is put something right tomorrow against Columbus and come out, start well, start with high energy. There'll be a lot of energy in the stadium. We're going to try to use that to our advantage and go after them.
I think they've only won two games this year. Obviously they've not lost as many as us but they are sitting in a similar type of position with a couple of wins. For us it is about taking care of our business, playing well, and winning the game.
On if the team worked on anything in particular in practice this week
If we did I wouldn't tell you. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens in the stadium with the players and the coaching staff stays in the stadium with the players and the coaching staff.
On what he wants to see from the team
The Kansas game was a good result for us. I don't think it was a good performance. I want to see us getting back to being that relentless team that attacks for ninety minutes. From the first to the ninetieth: going at teams, attacking from wide areas, getting good quality service into the box to [Kris Boyd] and the forwards. We need to get back to that kind of game plan. I think we've gotten away from it a little bit with too much coming inside and trying to link-up. I think we play our best football, as we did in the second half against Philly, [when we are] getting the ball wide, getting at defenders one on one, and creating good chances for ourselves. Hopefully we will see a lot more of that tomorrow.
On what the team has been lacking in recent weeks
I think confidence, at times. I think a lot of people have been mentioning in the media a lack of effort. I don't think it is a lack of effort. Sometimes a lack of confidence can look like a lack of effort because guys are tight and nervous about the situation because we are losing games, etc. You stop running because you tense up and I think tomorrow we need to get out and win the game, but we want to try and win the game with a little bit of flair and a bit of style. That's what I think the fans have been missing a little bit from last year, because we put up some really good performances here, entertaining performances and that is what we need to get back to.
On how missing Kalif Alhassan has affected the team's ability to play an attacking style
I think we are missing him. I think we are missing [Sal Zizzo] and David Horst. Not that they are definitely going to start on the team, but what it does is it breeds competition so therefore players that are playing in the team realize that if you look to the bench there is good back-up there and if you are not playing well then you can be subbed out or you might not start the next game. You need competition at this level. I think that we've missed too many guys for a long period of time.
You know, Sal Zizzo was very exciting to watch here last year and created a lot of opportunities for us. We didn't always take him, but just his ability to get get behind the back four and give you decent service from wide areas... of course we miss him. Kalif is another one; he started preseason and got stronger as the preseason went on, comes into the Philly game and has a really good second half against Philadelphia. We need to get these guys back, fit and healthy. That's one of the reasons why we feel that we're not firing on all cylinders right now.
On Kalif Alhassan's return from injury
I don't want to say a couple of weeks away. [We're] hoping to get him back on the field with the ball in the next seven to ten days. I hope he doesn't go any longer than that because we do need our players back healthy.
On the Timbers current right back situation
I don't tend to talk about the team sheet until the team sheet gets announced.
On Sal Zizzo's current fitness level
I think that if you look at European football, with squads and reserve teams and et cetera, that is where it becomes a big help that if you have somebody who's had an injury like Sal's he should be able to come back and get maybe ten or twelve reserve team games in. We don't have that luxury in this country. He has been training every day with no ill effects. He's been off the brace for two or three weeks now. His stamina, obviously, is only going to get better and stronger when he plays games and gets ninety minute games under his belt. The problem is we don't have enough reserve games to do that with him, so we are going to just have get him going, throw him in there, and get as many reserve minutes as we can.