In their last training session before flying to LA to take on the Galaxy tomorrow, the Timbers found themselves in the middle of a much more busy training facility that normal. With the usual practice taking place alongside a Tualatin Hills United Soccer Club tournament and a tour for sponsors of the team, the atmosphere around the Timbers training facility was much more lively that normal.
Today's practice was closed to the media after the first half hour and opened up again after practice had concluded. After their training was over a number of players stayed on the pitch, although many seemed to just be enjoying the beautiful weather rather than doing any individual drills.
Of the Timbers international contingent only Steve Purdy and Jake Gleeson were on the pitch today. Rodney Wallace, who picked up an ankle injury in Costa Rica's final friendly before commencing World Cup Qualifiers, was still out of practice. Lovel Palmer and Futty Danso were both absent from practice. Palmer is still traveling back from his time with the Jamaican national team while Danso has another game to play with Gambia tomorrow in the African Cup of Nations.
Eric Brunner, who has been out for several weeks now with a concussion, was not at practice as the team wait for him to recover and be cleared to play by the league. Steven Smith, the final missing Timber, is still in Scotland getting married.
Merritt Paulson, Gavin Wilkinson, and Jose Adolfo Valencia were all in attendance at practice this morning. Paulson and Wilkinson participated in the tour of the facility that was going on while Valencia worked out inside the training center and did some exercises with a medicine ball on the side of the pitch.
- Early on in practice the keepers were all working on making a quick, accurate throw after saving the ball, which seems like a great idea to me as the Timbers keepers have been criticized regularly for the quality of their distribution.
- Mike Fucito, Eric Alexander, and Sebastian Rincon worked on their finishing inside the six yard box from crosses along the ground after practice, burying the majority of chances.
- A number of players once again were playing keepy uppy after practice and Sebastian Rincon took the opportunity to show off some of the flair that he brings to the pitch. If you are wondering what that might entail, check out his "My Skill Set"video on the Timbers website.
- Danny Mwanga, Franck Songo'o, and Kalif Alhassan were all practicing taking free kicks around a wall of practice dummies and each had some very nice curve to their shots.
- John Spencer headed indoors after practice and was not available to speak to the press, which is a first for the Timbers final practice in Portland before a match.
On the state of the team after the long break
Spirits are good. I think the break was a goodtime to get in some extra work, some extra fitness, and the guys had a great attitude about it. Now we are ready to go beat up on someone else rather than on ourselves.
I think that, from a training standpoint, guys put it in every day whether it was two sessions in a day, a session and a lift, it didn;t matter what it was. The mentality of the group was good in a time when it could have been guys putting their heads down, so kudos to everyone for working hard and now it is a matter of putting that same effort into games and getting results.
On the mental effects of the break
I think that with a break from games you definitely have time to clear your heads and work on some things, both personally and collectively, that you need to get better at and at the end of the day get ready for what is going to be a long stretch of the season here where there is not going to be a lot of breaks similar to that.
We are ready to get back into it. Sometimes these long breaks they kind of go on and on and I think that we are at that point where we are ready to step on the field and bring energy into the game against LA.
On what the Timbers need to do to improve on their last performance against the Galaxy
When we started out the game I thought we played fairly well. Obviously it is a bigger field and it is a game where you have got to keep some possession because if you don't they are and there are going to be some long stretches of the gamewhere we are going to have to weather the storm, as you do any time on the road. At the end of the day, I think that this group is comfortable. I think that we have gotten better and better in terms of keeping the ball in their attacking third and creating chances. Now it is just a question of us finishing those chances and continuing being solid defensively.
Amos came over while I was talking to Jack Jewsbury, so I missed some of what was said.
On Eric Brunner and the Timbers current center back situation
Obviously we want to make sure that he is healthy and ready. I think that with [David Horst] and [Hanyer Mosquera], with [Andrew Jean-Baptiste], with Steve Purdy with his national team, and Eric Brunner we have a luxury of riches and Futty is coming back as well, so that is a position that we feel very good about and very confident in any of those guys.
On Rodney Wallace's ankle injury
I think that it was initially supposed to be very severe but he is a quick healer, Rodney. With him I think you kind of throw out the book.
He always tells me that it feels good, even when he is on crutches, so I think he is doing well and I think that he is doing well in the rehab. Our medical staff does a very good job and, again, he is a quick healer, so we will see.
On Kris Boyd's level of fitness
He was gone but he had a protocol to follow there and we assume that he did based on reports back and assuming that the wedding didn't get too much in the way of that. I hope it did [get in the way] a little bit so he got the chance to enjoy his time with his new wife. I think he is a good professional and he will get there.
If he has to go and start than he will go and start. If we feel that we are going to be better served bringing him off the bench, based on the transcontinental travel that he has done, then that will be the case. We will get with our strength and conditioning coach John Ireland and the medical staff, and the coaching staff will make the decision with some feedback on Kris. Fucito and Danny have done well. Kris Boyd we saw today he was exceptional with his finishing, so we feel like he hasn't lost a step there.
On how LA's line up changes affect the way the team has prepared for Sunday's game
It doesn't at all because we are preparing mostly on us and focusing mostly on how we're playing. We've had two very good weeks of training. We feel like our team is reaching a new level and a new plateou in terms of fitness and in terms of intensity. We feel very good about that.
They'll have [Landon Donovan], they'll have David Beckham, they'll have Josh Saunders, it looks like he'll be back. They have some world class players who will cause us difficulty if we are not sharp, so we are focused on ourselves with the idea that you don't want to give up free kicks with that team, with that guy in, number 23. That is the focus for us and we feel good about the last couple of weeks.
On how the Timbers will make sure that they are sharp against LA
The intensity of training. We feel that we have had a very good two weeks of training and we feel that the intensity is raised all the way through the kit man to John and beyond, so we feel like, whether it was the loss to Cal FC or the two weeks off in the league we are four games unbeaten going into that.I feel like the confidence and the legs underneath our team are really rising and hopefully in time and at the right time. We feel very good going into the weekend.
And once again I have run out of transcription time before heading to work. Boyd's quotes will be up late tonight.