The Timbers held a long training session today at their Beaverton training facility. With the team bolstered by their improved play at home against Aston Villa on Tuesday night, training was lively as the team prepares to take on Chivas USA this weekend.
Helping to run the proceedings was new assistant coach Sean McAuley. Newly returned in Portland since his time spent playing here in 2002, McAuley was immediately in the thick of things, remarking after practice that "players are players".
Steven Smith, who missed training earlier in the week thanks to some swelling of the knee, was back on the pitch today and participated fully in practice. In the games of keep away and scrimmaging that were on exhibition before practice was closed he looked fully recovered, not hesitating at all in his movements.
Eric Brunner was also with the team today but only for warm ups. As the team switched fields (warm ups are done on the turf while the rest of training takes place on the grass) to begin their keep away drills he took to the sideline and was watching practice from there. Brunner is still recovering from a concussion.
More practice notes plus quotes from Gavin Wilkinson and David Horst after the jump.
Jose Adolfo Valencia was at practice today, doing some jogging around the outside of the field while the team did their warm ups. After finishing his jogging, Valencia headed inside with John Ireland to continue his work out.
Bright Dike and Kris Boyd were kitted out in the Timbers white training tops today, an uncommon sight at practice where the players are usually all in green. Their change in wardrobe was for a reason, however, as they were kept on the field as designated attacking players while the team practiced breaking out of defense quickly and getting the ball up the field to the forwards.
On what to take away from the Aston Villa game on Tuesday
It shows that as a club we are doing some things well. The results aren't going our way and I accept that that needs to change, but Sebastian Rincon, Brent Richards, Ryan Kawulok coming in and doing well, Andrew Jean-Baptiste coming back for the second half and halving a solid performance: there are a lot of positives.
On how the game against Aston Villa affects the team's mindset
I think it is very important, otherwise we are going in to this maybe a little bit scared, a little bit hesitant in what we are doing, still lacking a little bit of confidence. Game day is entirely different. Mentally we need to as a group, all of us, we need to be a little bit stronger. We need to go out there, expect to win, and find a way to win. I always think that athletes should be humble off the field and play with arrogance on the field.
On how to prepare the team for Chivas this weekend
First of all if you look at exhibitions games, teams come in with different objectives. Villa hadn't conceded a goal in the US. They wanted to go through this whole tour without giving one, one of their assistant coaches got sent off, their head coach was very animated on the sidelines and you could see that there was a desire to win, so that made it a very competitive game.
I think you take that into it and you look at premiership players and Aston Villa being a quality team and you can take a tremendous amount of positives going into the Chivas game. I asked them is Dallas better than Aston Villa? The answer is, no, they're not, but did they want it more on that particular day? Could we have done more to solve a few problems on and off the field? I think the answer is yes. I think going in to Chivas we need to be optimistic, we need to be positive.
They're a good group of players and they are full of pride so we need to make sure that we get back to winning ways on our home field. The mentality in the locker room, the work ethic form the players has been first class.
On how playing Chivas twice in two weeks can help the team prepare
It maybe saves the team a forty five minute video session. Being that recently, it was a week and a half ago, it is fresh in their minds. There is no surprises against some of these teams that we are coming up against right now. We know what they are going to do. We need to know what we are going to do well in order to break them down. What we are trying to do is paint a very clear picture of how we are going to score, how we are going to defend, and how the two mesh together.
On the ups and downs that the team has struggled with this season
Maybe I was a little bit harsh on the boys after Dallas and I started that by saying no excuses and I do believe that, because once you develop that mindset going into a game it is always easy. You look at the situations that occurred within the game and where the individual breakdowns occurred, we were our own worst enemy.
You can come off that game and say that we were absolutely dreadful. We were, we were dreadful for ninety minutes, but some of the results and some of the performances as of late I think our possession, the number of corners that we have, the number chances that we created against LA, those were some positives in that game and you have to be a pessimist not to see any of those and negative in life.
We have to turn it around. I accept full responsibility for that, but it is not going to happen over night. Sometimes you need to go through these stretches to find out a little bit more and in order to fix things.
The game against Chivas, some people have said that that was our best second half performance on the road. We created chances, we dominated possession, and we were unlucky not to get a result. In this game there is highs and lows and what we are trying to do is find the middle ground and go from there.
On Sean McAuley's responcibilities with the team
Sean is an experienced coach. It is a different voice, a different message, to the players; a different way to relate to them, maybe. He has got a good pedigree with what he has done with coaching. He has been involved with first team football in the UK. Yes, he has been involved in academy football, but the pressures are still there, there are still expectations.
We were able to add a quality piece to our coaching staff and look to build it. I think that we can always stand to look at the club philosiphy in building the whole club. We need good pieces in every position and Sean fills a void.
On how McAuley will take some of the pressure off of him
I'll have Sean taking more training sessions. Obviously scouting still falls under, whether you call it technical director or whether you call it GM, whatever you want to call it. I manage the salary cap, I manage the budget side of things, I try to help the coaching staff sign players, so for me I need to still continue to look forward while dealing with the now and Sean takes a little bit of pressure off me in being able to run more training sessions and help up find out more about the players and hopefully turn things around and start to get a few results.
On playing at home after two losses on the road
It was a chance for us to go out there and have a little bit of fun. We haven't been able to have that the last two games. We haven't played well, so I was able to go out there and you can be creative, be imaginative, and if we lose, so be it. The game doesn't mean anything, but go out there, have some fun, get some confidence back and some self belief. I think we went out there and we did that.
On the team's mindset after losing to Dallas and coming into the Aston Villa game
I think our confidence was hurt a little bit, our ego was a little bruised, after the Dallas game. So we go out there and play against a really good team like that and play as well as we did I think it really gives us some confidence going forward and hopefully on Saturday we still have that, we use it, and we go out there and play the same way we did against Villa, just not giving up two goals.
On playing Chivas and Dallas again at home after just facing them on the road
There is some extra motivation because we thought we could have gotten a point at Chivas and we were a little humiliated in Dallas, but we go out there and we know how they are going to play, we know their personnel, so that gives us an advantage and we are at home: we'll have the crowd behind us and we are playing on our field. We'll go out there and we have got to play the way we have been playing at home. We have got to start winning these games.