The Portland Timbers practiced today at Jeld-Wen Field ahead of their Cascadia Cup match up with the Vancouver Whitecaps tomorrow night. While the Whitecaps are still in a strong position to compete for a playoff berth, the Timbers only remaining chance at glory this season is a victory over their Cascadian rivals in Vancouver and Seattle.
Practice today was once again Well attended with nobody missing due to injury. Kosuke Kimura was back participating in the full practice with a new face mask, made necessary by a Tim Cahill elbow which broke Kimura's nose last Sunday. Kimura's mask (in the style of Rip Hamilton's iconic mask) looked slightly more reinforced than Troy Perkins' mask earlier this year which shattered under contact during a game, causing Perkins to stop wearing it.
Kalif Alhassan also practiced today, but was still held out of the majority of training as he continues to recover from patellar tendonitis. Alhassan will not be in the eighteen for tomorrow's match, according to Gavin Wilkinson, as he is not match fit but he will be available next week for the Timbers first of two back to back matches against Colorado.
Jose Adolfo Valencia continued his training with the team as he comes back from his surgery at the beginning of the year. According to Wilkinson, Valencia will not be available for Sunday's reserve game but is on track to play with the reserves in three or four weeks.
Cam Vickers and Pablo Di Fiori continued practicing with the team. Di Fiori has been on trial this week and will likely return next week as well while Vickers has been training with the team in recent weeks. When asked about Vickers' status, the Timbers FO referred to him as a "practice player", although Wilkinson has not yet commented on Vickers.
More practice notes plus quotes from Gavin Wilkinson and Kosuke Kimura after the jump.
Line Up Speculation
Although Wilkinson refused to say if Bright Dike would start up top again for the Timbers, he did confirm that the team would be looking to get in behind their opponents, playing a similar style to what was on display against New York last week. In concert with the players that were on the pitch in practice, I am anticipating a very similar line up to what we saw on Sunday with Eric Alexander the most likely replacement for the suspended Diego Chara.
My guess at tomorrow's line up for the Timbers:
Ricketts, Smith, Horst, Mosquera, Kimura, Jewsbury, Alexander, Nagbe, Songo'o, Zizzo, Dike
On how the team looks ahead of tomorrow's game
Good. Everyone is looking lively. They trained well and we know what is at hand. The Cascadia Cup is obviously something that is very important to us. I think all the players understand that. It has been part of the pregame video that happened today.
On the Cascadia Cup's importance to the team
It is everything right now. I think that when you start to look at it, it is a way to repay the fans for showing up game in and game out and giving it their all and it is a chance for us to repay them. The Cascadia Cup, the rivalry, is one thing, but to win the games is very important to us.
On the team's standing in the Cascadia
So far, out of the Cascadia Cup, We are on four points having played two games. The other teams are on four points having played three games, so this is a chance for us to place a level of emphasis and importance on something that is very important to us and very important to the fans. It is a way to show them the season is not all lost.
On if a Cascadia Cup win could help motivate the team for next season
I think so. It is a matter of pride. For the team that we've got here, some of the players today were saying, you know looking at the videos of the other teams, some of the defending is comparable to ours, but we are getting punished on a lot of mistakes and it is important for us to stay unified as a group and this is something that we can wrap our hands around and do well with.
For us it is a very important competition. Even if the season was going extremely well this still ranks as something that is very, very important to the players and the organization.
If Vancouver presents any specific challenges to the team
There are, but I am not going to boost their confidence by telling you what we think they are. Yeah, they have got some lively front players, they have got a little bit of speed out wide, Camilo is creative. They have got an older team, just an old team in MLS in general terms.
For us, we have got the youth, the enthusiasm, the home crowd, hopefully the energy levels, and we've definitely got some talented players, so we need everyone to turn up, as we did in New York, and have a go at them.
On losing Diego Chara to suspension
We prepared for this this week as best we can and losing Diego is a loss. I think he is a very important player for us and I think he is a very talented player but you are going to have moments like this throughout the season without various bits and pieces.
For us, as a team, it is a matter of keeping the group strong, a player coming in, and performing well. If a player comes in a performs well then we have got a difficult decision to make. You look at Sal Zizzo, who wasn't even in the squad of eighteen a couple of weeks ago, and he has come in and done extremely well. Players get rewarded for good performances and it will be no different for who replaces Diego.
On the number of fouls and suspensions that Diego Chara has accumulated
I think there is a level of frustration with the players and Diego wears his heart on his sleeve. For him it is probably a little but harder. I think that he, now, is being watched by referees and there is things that are going against him and yellows that are being given to him that maybe another player in the league wouldn't be receiving.
You start looking at who is leading the league in fouls and Diego is up there. A lot of it is that he is just very gritty as a player. He is honest and he consistently puts pressure on the opposition and when you do that for ninety minutes and referees think that after three or four times it is persistent behavior then it results in a yellow.
I think that with Diego it is just unfortunate. It is just the way that he plays. We get what we get with Diego and if there is one thing that we would change it would be that he is a little bit more mature in the way that he challenges.
On if Bright Dike will start tomorrow
You will find out tomorrow, probably an hour before kickoff. Bright did well last week and scored a goal. It was his first start in MLS.
It is a home game, this is a little bit different, but I do think we can have a go at their back line and look to get in behind them. We have several options and we know what we are doing, but you will have to wait.
On Kalif Alhassan's health
Kalif is looking a lot better this week. He had an injury that kept him out for the last two games and with that he lost a little bit of fitness. It's important for us to get him back to pretty much match fitness and he has been working extremely hard, doing double days every day with our fitness coach. He is looking a lot better and he will be out of the question for this game but will be back in contention for the next one, I'm sure.
On Kosuke Kimura
He is wearing a mask today. He looks better and he will be available for tomorrow.
On Jose Adolfo Valencia
He has been out running every single day. He has joined in to the warm ups and he has been doing extensive running as well. He is a very powerful individual. I don't know if you've had the opportunity to see him running around the field but he is three days into training and just to watch the way he moves he glides. He really is a thoroughbred of athletes in every sense. We are hoping to get him back for a couple of reserve games this year just to be able to critique him.
We will probably take another three or four weeks with Jose before we throw him into a reserve game.
Most of Kimura's quotes will have to wait until tomorrow as I have some technology issues (anyone want to buy me a new computer?) and an early shift at work today.
On if playing in a match that means so much to the fans provides him with extra motivation
Oh yeah. Definitely. I always do. I always try to motivate myself, motivate my people, my other players, motivate all the guys that are coming to cheer for us and all that. I think it is really important and that more energy to play that game. I am just so pleased to have all the fans and the great environment here and my teammates love it. If I can do anything to fire them up a little bit, I will do anything.