The Timbers held a closed practice at their Beaverton training facility as they returned from their midweek day off. Where Wednesday's practice seemed somewhat unsettled at times, today saw the team out and joking with each other from the get go.
After the usual running, the team broke into groups for games of keep away and Gavin Wilkinson yelled for the "privileged kids" to get in the middle. While Mike Fucito, a Harvard grad, had no choice but to step up, the rest of the team had a healthy debate over who should join him with each player showing some uncommon humbleness when talking about their alma mater.
Eric Brunner, who has been working his way back form a knock to the knee after spending over two months out with a concussion, was back out with the team running the warm ups today wearing a knee brace. After the warm ups were over, Brunner continued working out outside overseen by trainer Nik Wald, doing some running on the training facility's artificial surface.
Timbers U23s player Cam Vickers once again practiced with the team, seeing time in a forward position during finishing drills after practice and spending a while working on his crosses after most of the team had headed inside.
More practice notes and quotes coming up after the break.
Jake Gleeson's New Zealand squad are officially eliminated from the Olympics but he has not yet rejoined the team yet. When asked after practice, Wilkinson said that he hoped Gleeson's return would be as soon as possible.
On how preparations are going for facing FC Dallas this Sunday
I think very good. I think once you have taken the losses out of it, which is extremely difficult because we are here to win, I think that if you look at the performance, the mentality, the work ethic of the group there is a lot of positives. I think the players have been buzzing this week and mentally they are engaged.
On the team not making the most of its opportunities
We are responsible for it and we have to change it. We have looked at our possession stats, even including the Dallas game, which was a bad game, we have looked at our possession numbers. We've looked at our number of shots, number of chances created, and the average has started to increase. We are keeping the ball a little bit more and we've started to connect with more passes. Our success rate in passing has gone up.
The one piece that we are missing is the most important piece and we will work a little more on that tomorrow. Most of that is about self-belief and confidence, so if we get the players believing, get them buzzing in training, then hopefully that carries on to the game.
On Darlington Nagbe's performance so far this season
I think that we are seeing growth in Darlington. I don't think he has struggled, in my opinion. He is a young player that is still learning and he is continuing to do so. We are seeing improvements in Darlington's game and we are happy with those improvements, so I think everyone has always recognized that he is a very talented player. It is about getting the performance consistently now, but with him, just like any player, a lot of it is confidence and self-belief.
After he scored the two goals against Salt Lake I am sure he was flying for a couple of weeks and then reality sets in, and then you keep working hard, and then you reassess as a young player and keep moving forward. He is a young player but I think that our young players will continue to develop.
On developing young attacking players
It is a personality trait. It is having a killer instinct and Darlington, up top, possesses that and when we play him in the middle of the park he is less selfish in the way that he plays. Certain players, [Kalif Alhassan] in the right areas, Franck Songo'o in the right areas, Kris Boyd, Darlington Nagbe, Brent Richards, you want them to be selfish. You want them to take responsibility. You want them to have the mentality that they are going to score and we will get there.
On what pressure there is on Kris Boyd to score as the only player with multiple goals since the end of March
If you look at Chivas, he had a couple of very good chances, it is a matter of everybody taking responsibility, everybody stepping up and everybody taking responsibility and everybody looking to finish the chances that they are presented. If we are on the road and we get one chance, regardless of who it is, we should have the mentality that we will finish it an we have to capitalize on our chances.
On if this is a revenge game
I would hope it is personal pride. If you get knocked down I hope that people want to get back up and try to finish it off. For me it is a lot about pride. When we played Dallas they were very good and we were poor and it created a big difference. When we play this Sunday we have got to be very good and we will see what we are up against, but it has to be a mentality that we will go in, we will play good football, we will create chances, and now we have to finish our chances.
On when he expects Jake Gleeson back from the Olympics
Hopefully immediately. He sustained a little bit of an injury and I thin they didn't think it was worth risking, but by all accounts he is about 95% fit and healthy. It will be nice to get him back, get him integrated. He has had a lot of distractions this year. He has missed a lot of training sessions and he is a young player that we need to continue to work with. I think he has a huge upside, I think he has a lot of potential, and we have to be able to work with that on a day to day basis in order to develop him, so we want him back immediately.
On the difference in finishing between practices and games
What is happening in training is actually pretty impressive: some of the combinations, some of the passages of play, and the ability to finish. It is a lot more relaxed. It is like taking an exhibition game and putting it on a training day and using it as a training session. I think players express themselves a little bit more, they are a little bit freer. In game time there is that natural tendency to be a little bit tighter in the way that they perform, they're less relaxed around goal and we all know that that is the most important part of the game.
That is where it comes down a little bit to maturity, a sense of self-belief, knowing that you'll do it on match day and you'll do it on the field on game day. Normally, Kris Boyd that is his biggest strength. He had an off day but he'll make up for it.
On the need for goals and assists
We'll improve in that area because it can't get any worse. That is a positive way of looking at it, but you are also looking at the fact that they have the tools. It is a matter of showing up on game day and getting the job done and fulfilling their job description and making sure that we, as the coaching staff, put those players in the right positions to be successful and give them all the tools necessary during the week to have to confidence and the self-belief to go into the weekend and get a good result.
They are young players. Darlington is a year and a bit out of college and he spent a couple of years in college. He is still a young player. I think he has got a big future ahead of him. I think a lot of our young players do and we need to get the balance right between seniority and youth. Not youth, but inexperience as such. Do we need a few more leaders on the team? I think so.
On if there are too many expectations on the team
I don't think you can have too many expectations, personally. Expectations are down to interpretation and I think that we are expecting people to do their jobs. That is the way I look at it. Expectations from the fans and the crowds are very healthy, we want that, and what I would say is have a level of patience with a high level of expectation and understand that we have got some quality pieces, we really do.
If you start to look at Darlington, you look at Kalif, you look at Brent Richards, you look at Franck Songo'o, there has been a lot of changes. We didn't go for the 33, the 34, or the 35 year old player to win now to only have to replace them in a year. We are trying to develop consistency. We are trying to develop a core group that can be successful. We understand that we do need to ad a few pieces but I think that there are some quality pieces here. The expectations are very healthy.
On the possibility of Kalif Alhassan playing as an attacking midfielder for the first team
I think that as he develops and matures as a player he has a lot of the traits that you like to se out of a central midfielder. We all know Kalif and going forward he is fantastic: the way he sees the game, the ability to split defenders. It is something that we have looked at, it is something that has to be the right fit in the right game for him to be successful. You want to put players into the right positions to be successful.
What I would say about Kalif is that is the best I've seen him play when he came off the bench even though we lost against Chivas. His mentality to have an effect and have an impact over that game I thought was tremendous from him and the way that he played when he came on I thought was fantastic.
On what the team needs to do against Dallas on Sunday
We need to learn from the performance that we had in Dallas and go in and get the three points. It's a disappointing run that we are in. We can't hide from the fact but I think we need to take the positives from last week. We created maybe six or seven clear cut chances that we should have scored from, so the most important thing is to win the game obviously, but with the chances we've had we need to look to finish them off.
On if the lack of scoring from elsewhere on the team puts additional pressure on him
I put pressure on myself to score week in and week out. You want to score as many as you can. I can't hide from the fact that I missed chances last week, but if you go and hide away from things that is going to cause problems and the small problems become big problems. The most important thing for me is to get myself in the positions as I will always try and do and get myself in a position to score goals.
Last week was encouraging, as I said, because we have seven or eight clear cut chances so it is up to us now as strikers. It is what we have been moaning for all season, is clear cut chances. We got it last week and we never finished it, but we want the same again this week. We put pressure on ourselves to get in good positions to score these goals and this week will be no different.
On if there has been an improvement in the chances being created from the beginning of the season
I think there's been chances from the beginning of the season for everyone, but I think that the game this Saturday was that open and because we missed so many clear cut chances it probably looked as if there was more chances. I've played in games all season, even at the beginning of the season if I think back to Philadelphia in the first game, there's been chances. There's been other games along the way that there has been a lot of chances and we managed to score one or two goals, but against Chivas even the last time as well we had a few chances and we never took them.
On if he has readjusted to playing regular first team games again
It is difficult for a person coming from Europe their first season here. I don't think there is anybody who came and took the league by storm because what you have got to remember is nine times out of ten coming form Europe your season is like eighteen months because you've played the first six months before you come into your twelve month period here.
Hopefully going forward to next year I can build on the goals I've scored this season, even though there is a long way left this season. Your first season, at any club, is always your most difficult. I've enjoyed it, so it is up to me to finish this season strongly and hopefully come back stronger next year.
On if revenge is a motivating factor against FC Dallas
Revenge is a strong word. At the end of the day you go out and you try to play your best that you can, and that is to win the game. Yeah, the result against Dallas the last time wasn't good, so we know that ourselves we need to go out and... a win against Dallas would be revenge, but you want to go out and put on a performance for yourself and the club, not just because somebody beat you 5-0. There is a bit of added determination there to go because it is embarrassing to get beat 5-0, beat the way we did, at any sport.
It is up to us to go out and stamp our authority on the game. The most important thing is to get the three points. It doesn't really matter if you win 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, or whatever. The most important thing for us is to go and win the game.
On how the team should approach this game against Dallas
Looking at it, the most important thing is to treat it like any other game. At the end of the day the game we got beaten 5-0 in is past. Yes, it is an embarrassment, a humiliation, to be beat 5-0, we all know that, but to go on Sunday and win 1-0 is the same in terms of the points. Everybody can look at it and say you want to win 3-0, 4-0 but football is a hard game sometimes. The most important thing for us is to get the victory to stop this run that we're in. We've lost the last few games and we need to turn that around and Sunday gives us a great chance to do that and finish the season strongly.
A lot of people might look at it and say that it doesn't really make a difference where you finish and blah, blah, blah, but there is a lot of games to go and you can stamp your authority on teams and if you win the majority of your games in the end of the season it sets you up nice for next season coming back. Knowing that you can go to these places, you can win games on the road, you can bring teams here to Jeld-Wen and beat them. For us, it is a mentality that we get it in our heads that we can win games, that we can go and beat teams, and I think Sundy gives us a great chance to do that and build momentum going forward. It can set us up for the rest of the season and take it into next season.