The Timbers held their first practice in Portland in more than a week today, returning from their two game road trip against Toronto and New York. It was perfect training weather at the team's Beaverton training facility as next year's designated player, Jose Adolfo Valencia, trained with the Timbers for only the second time since joining the team and the first time since undergoing surgery to repair the cartilage in his left knee.
Trencito looked at home amongst the team, keeping up fine in the early team warm-ups, before being split off from the rest of the team, along with Kalif Alhassan and Kosuke Kimura, to work with team trainer Nic Wald. Valencia continued to work with Wald for the duration of practice, primarily on agility drills, until senior members of the team left the field. With the team's other young players continuing to work out, Valencia observed form the sidelines while icing his knee.
Kimura, who received a broken nose and a slight concussion thanks to an elbow to head from Tim Cahill, was back out on the pitch for the duration of practice, having been cleared for training by the team doctors. According to Gavin Wilkinson, Kimura will continue to work out separately until Friday, when he will be able to rejoin the rest of the team. Like Troy Perkins earlier in the year, Kimura will be fitted with a mask to protect his nose for the rest of the season.
The team also saw several new arrivals today. Ian Hogg, the team's recent acquisition at left back, practiced with the team for the first time today after arriving in Portland earlier this week. Hogg looked nervous in his debut with the team, but seemed to settle in as practice went on. Although it is still early, descriptions of Hogg's level of talent as "raw" seemed spot on.
More training notes plus quotes from Wilkinson and Sal Zizzo after the jump.
Also newly arrived was trialist Pablo Di Fiori. Di Fiori is a Uruguayan attacking midfielder who can play on the wings, according to Wilkinson, and the team had him primarily lining up as a left winger in training today. Di Fiori, despite being listed around the internet as a forward, looked comfortable playing a splitting pass forward and took the Timbers defense apart several times with some well placed passing.
Although not a new arrival per se, Andrew Jean-Baptiste was back with the team today now that the LA Blues have concluded their season. To make room for AJB's return, left back Chris Taylor was moved to the injury reserve list as he will be out for the remained of the season after undergoing hip surgery.
Cam Vickers continued to practice with the team today, lining up just about everywhere as he continues to be the team's utility man during practice.
On if he had talked to team owner Merritt Paulson about Paulson's recent tweets
Yeah, a little bit.
On if his wife was approached by fans
Yeah, I prefer not to talk about that. Let's focus on the positives.
On how Paulson's tweeting affects him and the team
I just think that professional sports are all about winning. I can understand the level of frustration and for the owner he is a little bit closer to it. He can see the work that is going into it, how hard and how much everyone cares, so maybe he is at it from a slightly different angle than from the fans perspective.
I feel for them. I really do. I think they care just as much and it is about winning at the professional level. It is hard to see the positives and when you point out the positives out you sound like it is self defense. When I came into this position it wasn't just a simple process. We are not just trying to win. We have to address some issues and there were some changes, and there has been a little bit of progress.
On what the "positives" were that he took away from the team's road trip
How many games have we gone through in a year and a half? Over fiftey MLS games and in half of those on the road we've not scored two goals on the road then we do it back to back and that is against a team in New York that is a very good team.
We are disappointed that we didn't come away from that game with a lot more. I think that is a positive feeling, when you go one the road and you have actually put your footprint on the game and play a certain way.
On changing up the line up and keeping Boyd on the bench
I think that against New York, not just there, we do need to find out what players can produce and forwards are there to score goals. We've gone through a little bit of a dry spell and with the way that we wanted to play against New York, we wanted to be able to pressure form the front, we wanted to be able to get in behind, so we needed somebody up top who could put themselves about, who would battle for things and have the pace to get in behind. That was the reason for Bright Dike and I think it worked.
On of the things that Merritt stated when I came on board [as the interim head coach] is to find out what we've got and what our issues are and what we need to address. At the moment we are giving up goals. When you start to look at New York, I think that we have got the better of the chances, to be honest, but we are conceding goals. They are not goals that are creative goals where we've gotten ripped to pieces and where they've punished us: it is defensive lapses and errors of judgement. I've been a defender and it happens. Sometimes you go through spells like that and a lot of defending is confidence and organization and belief in the players around you. There are some areas that we do need to address and as we get closer to appointing a head coach we will start to address those.
On Sal Zizzo
[He's been] absolutely phenomenal. I think Sal has gone through a tough stretch; we left him out of the eighteen, we left him out of the starting eleven, and I think it just speaks about him as a person and as a professional. He keeps working hard and made the most of his opportunity and now I think that Sal knows that he has to keep doing that, week in and week out to keep his position. There is a player on the bench, or two players on the bench, that could hopefully do what he does, but I think that Sal has done extremely well. Two assists and a goal in when in the previous x number of games he hadn't had anything. I am happy for Sal.
On Ian Hogg
He is a little bit nervous at the moment, his touch was a little bit off, but he is a young player and we brought him in to see what he can give us going forward. I don't expect him to contribute a lot this year, to be honest, and it is a matter of getting a couple of months under our belt. We had a roster spot open under the cap number and this was an opportunity to make the most of the roster and to see what we can develop and look at moving forward.
On the difference in Bright Dike and his play since returning from loan
[He has got] more respect for the profession. That is not a dig at right in any way whatsoever. I think that sometimes you come into the professional game, you have done well, then you come back from an injury and things are not going to be handed to you. Bright could possible have worked a little bit harder but ask Bright as well.
Going away, getting his confidence back, getting a lot of games under his belt, and getting back to scoring goals. He has looked good in training and he has caused a lot of problems and that is what you want from your forwards.
On Kosuke Kimura
Kosuke will be fine for this weekend. He will be kept out of contact until Friday. He will have a mask for friday and will be cleared for the game this weekend, so that is good news. I think Kosuke had one of his better games for us as well against New York and he was doing well until he suffered the blow to the face.
On Jake Gleeson
Jake Gleeson is coming back. He's starting to feel a lot better.
On Jose Adolfo Valencia
Jose Valencia trained this morning for the first part with the guys and as we start to work with him we will start to get him a little bit more ball work.
On Kalif Alhassan
Kalif is feeling a lot better and did a lot of running today so hopefully we have him available for the weekend as well.
On the lack of an disciplinary action against Tim Cahill
I just think that the way that things are going for us right now, with the officiating and a couple of other decisions, you have just got to roll with it unfortunately. Anything else sounds like excuses and sour grapes and we are going to have to take it one the chin and move forward.
On trialist Pablo Di Fiori
He is an attacking midfielder that can play out wide. He is very good with the ball at his feet. He's a player that has been shopped to us for a little while now that just wasn't ideal with our schedule and everything else right now but here's and opportunity where we will be at home for a week and a half or two weeks and be able to have a good look at him. You will probably start to see a few more trialists start to come in towards the end of the season just seeing what they can produce. I think it is always easier to bring a trialist in to Portland rather than going and scouting them.
He will be available for the reserve game.
On Andrew Jean-Baptiste
Andrew Jean-Baptiste is back form his loan and he will be added to the group and so he will be available for the reserve game as well.
On how much attention he pays to the fans' reactions to him
You are human, you know what I mean? It is bound to have an effect at some level and I think that when you have a conviction and a belief in the rational behind why you do things in life it makes it a little bit easier. Everyone is allowed their opinion but I would much rather have fans that care. They care as much as I do. They do it by expressing it in a different way, of course.
The role of the general manager has always been to give the coach the pieces he wanted to be successful. Now I find myself in a position I never wanted to be in, but I will manage it and it means taking a few bullets until the end of the year to find out what we need to do to move forward then so be it. The role of general manager in soccer is so much different than baseball and basketball and maybe the NFL. It is a very different role and I think that maybe some people get confused with that.
On the Timbers away struggles
I think that the away form in the last two games was something you've probably not seen before, when we took the game to the opponents and we played in a certain way. Our possession numbers in Toronto were one of the highest they have been on the road and in New York we played a certain and the possession wasn't as high but the number of chances created were up there, some of the highest ones we've had on the road.
I think defending is about having a mentality and I think that away from home there has to be a lot more concentration. I think at home it is easy to keep that concentration where there is constantly fans behind you. When you are one the road and you are isolated a little bit more I think we need to mesh a little bit more, but we have got good pieces.
Again, it is always easy to point the finger at defenders, I have been there and done that. Generally there is players in front but it gets to that point for a reason and at the moment it is easy to identify one or two people. Defenders, they live and die by mistakes. A forward doesn't get punished for their mistakes and defenders to. I think that we are very happy with David Horst and [Hanyer Mosquera] and how they have been playing and by and large what we are doing. It is just a matter of tightening up in a few areas.
On how the team can come together after a long road trip
There is disappointment that we didn't win in Toronto. We thought there should have been a penalty and that it is probably one of the more obvious decisions that should have gone our way and then in New York we felt that we were a little bit hard done by through our mistakes and through not putting the ball away, and also maybe the officiating had a small part to play in that as well.
I think the guys are frustrated. They are ready to win. We need to start to win and for that to become a habit I like all the pieces: the way in which we are trying to play and the mentality of the group has been fantastic. I think that we are coming back form this road trip not trying to address issues but trying to fine tune things.
On the head coaching seach
It is going very well. We will finalize one more interview in the next week and be in a position where we will be able to make a decision. At the moment there are some candidates that had risen to the top and one that we feel would be right for the organization. We are honestly hopeful to be able to make a decision in the near future.