The Timbers held their first practice at Jeld-Wen Field since Gavin Wilkinson assumed the head coach's position. Although today's practice was closed, the press was not booted off the field until almost 10:40, a record in recent weeks. Wilkinson started things off with the usual warm ups before moving to passing drills and games of keep away before practice was closed.
At practice a number of Timbers players who were missing on Tuesday were back and working out with the team. Franck Songo'o was the most notable returnee after missing several days of practice due to a strained knee. Songo'o was expected to be out for several weeks but, according to Wilkinson, he is ready to play on Saturday.
Diego Chara was also back in practice after being given the day off on Tuesday and looked to be his usual self, full of boundless energy.
Brent Richards, who missed practice Tuesday with a knock to his ankle, was back and training today as well.
Still absent from training were Jake Gleeson, Rodney Wallace, and Chris Taylor. Gleeson is away with the New Zealand National team still, while Wallace and Taylor are recovering from injuries. Taylor is away recovering form hip surgery while Wallace was sighted on the side of the pitch, stretching and jogging, but not taking part in the day's training.
More practice notes plus quotes form Danny Mwanga after the jump.
Trialist Salim Arrache was still training with the team today and with the vantage point in Jeld-Wen we got to see a little but more of him in today's games of keep away. Arraache, who just turned 30, showed his calm under defensive pressure while working as the attacking player in the middle during games of keep away. Not only did he show off a very soft touch, but his passes never got anyone else in trouble, even when they were somewhat cheeky flicks and tricks. Arrache also showed his willingness to stay in position, taking just a step to the side to create a passing lane around the defenders rather than running all the way over to the side of the area.
The team's new defender Kosuke Kimura also showed off some tricks today, taking some time after practice to juggle the ball with Charles Renken. Both players showed off just what they can do with the ball in the air and both were quite impressive. If you have not seen it yet, check out Renken's "My Skill Set" video here.
On his time with Timbers so far
A lot of things have happened in the last few weeks. We had a great game at home and then a loss against Salt Lake and then a new coach, but at the same time I think that we are all very professional. We have a lot of experienced guys on the team, we have the same players, and I think we are still the same team and, if anything, we have just got to focus on the LA game and hopefully come out here and get a good result.
On how the team has reacted to John Spencer's firing
I think that we are taking it great. Whenever there is a change we have to adjust, so at the same time I think that the guys are taking it great. We have a lot of experienced guys on the team. They are trying to keep things together, so I think everything is going normal. At the end of the day, I think that we are still the same team and we still have the same players, so we have just got to focus on Saturday's game and just bring the best of ourselves.
On Gavin Wilkinson running practice
He is a good coach. He came out and, obviously, as the GM he was seeing some things and he played professionally as well. He is encouraging us to be very vocal. I think that is very important for us. After our loss to Salt Lake this is a chance for us to bounce back from that and the season is still young so we can still turn things around. I think we just need to stay focused and for the rest of the season take it one game at a time.
On the challenges in preparing to face the LA Galaxy
I suppose getting from A to Z very quickly, preparing the players, getting the players to understand their expectations. The good thing is, you look at our home performances and they've been very good by and large, so we're not trying to reinvent the wheel; it is a matter of getting players to concentrate, to be a bit motivated, which they will be at home, and understand their tasks.
They have a couple of really dangerous player and we start to look at their front two. If they are playing with [Landon Donovan] and [Robbie Keane] up top their mobility and just their out and out ability as individuals, and also the way that they partner up is going to be a challenge. Then you've got Beckham in the middle of the part who everyone is aware of that one as well.
It is making sure that they understand their roles going into the game and also what we expect from it.
I would be surprised if Gonzalez comes back, to be honest, playing on turf and thinking that maybe [Bruce Arena] isn't for turf. The last time LA played here was a reserve game and Leonardo was injured in that game. Everyone has their own opinions about different surfaces but if Omar Gonzalez plays he adds and element to the back that is a very important one for them. He has a lot of experience and also he is very powerful in the air. He has a good awareness of the game and he is a threat going forward as well on set pieces, which with Beckham would be a negative for us. He would add a threat.
On Diego Chara's suspension
Chara obviously we are going to miss him. He is a very good player.
On Franck Songo'o
Songo'o was back playing today, training today, and said he feels fine.
On if Songo'o's return was a surprise
Yes, definitely. It is a positive surprise. I think after we punished the athletic trainers on never getting players back in time they gave us a cautious time line and they are obviously beating it, so they are happy with themselves. Nik Wald and [have done a tremendous job there. Songo'o it is good to have him back as an option, whether we put him back in the squad for this weekend or in the line up we will see how he gets through tomorrow.
On if Songo'o is physically ready to play
Physically he will definitely be available.
On Rodney Wallace
Rodney Wallace is out and unavailable.
On Eric Brunner
Brunner is still coming back and we are taking out time with him. With him it is still match fitness.
On getting the team to communicate more
I think that we are a very quiet group and I think that for a while everyone has spoken about leadership and it is a matter of making sure that everybody takes a little bit of responsibility, which I believe had been a work in progress. Today it is just a matter of getting everybody talking, everybody communicating, everybody showing a little bit more as well. You are not going to get the ball if you're not asking for it, so we are trying to get players to be a lot more vocal.
On the attitude in practice today
I think that as we get closer to the game we want to get them back into their normal mindset. I think that every athlete is better when they are relaxed and when they are relaxed they can focus and work a little bit harder, so today it was a good atmosphere. It was a little bit more relaxed. We've got a video session this afternoon, a little bit of set pieces, and it will still be a relaxed atmosphere. Going into the game on Saturday we just need to bring more energy.
On how he runs practice
I have my own beliefs in what brings the most out of players and filling them full of confidence and belief and it always depends. You've got different coaches that suit different players and John was a great man manager and great with players, so can I compare in that category? Probably not, but I will give it my best and we will see if we can get organized, see if we can get the body motivated, see if we can get them believing in themselves.
I think we have a lot of ability and I think that we have a lot of potential and I also think potential is a very, very dangerous word and it is not an excuse. It is just something that just sets the bar a little bit higher and should enable us to start to work with players a little bit more and try to get more out of players.
On Kalif Alhassan
He has actually worked hard this week. He was out with John Ireland for a few of the afternoon sessions and I got positive reports back from John Ireland. From him, he is one that I put in that category of a lot of potential, but that does not make a good player at the highest level. I think that with Kalif, like a couple of our young players, we are going to see if they can mature, if they can take more responsibility, more ownership over the game, and impose themselves a little bit more over the game. I think we have a lot of young players that are capable of doing that.