As tomorrow's big game against the Seattle Sounders rapidly approaches, the Timbers held a short, closed practice today at Jeld-Wen Field. With the dire trajectory of the season so far, the Timbers tried to keep things ight early on in practice, warming up with a handball tournament. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the quick attacking style of the blue team headed up by David Horst, Sal Zizzo, and Rodney Wallace put them in an early lead before they were shut down in the tournament final by the solid defense and patient build up of the yellow team which featured Danny Mwanga and Darlington Nagbe.
Practice concluded early, with most of the players heading off the field as the press was let back on to the pitch. Several players stayed out for some time with Steven Smith, Kris Boyd, Jose Adolfo Valencia, and several other taking penalty kicks and shooting on goal for quite a while.
Injuries and Absences
Steve Purdy and Lovel Palmer, two players about whom there has be a good deal of transfer speculation (including in my article earlier today), were both absent from practice today. Palmer was in attendance, watching training from the entrance to the Timbers' locker room but not participating, while Purdy was not in attendance at all. After practice, Gavin Wilkinson told the press that both players had come back from their respective national teams with knocks which would make Palmer a game time decision and definitely keep Purdy out.
More training notes plus quotes from Gavin Wilkinson after the jump.
Steven Smith, who has missed training all this week, was out and kicking the ball around with the team, but did not participate fully in training as he is being given time to rest a nagging ankle injury.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who has also missed the last few practices with a hamstring strain, was watching from the sidelines and had to be shooed off the pitch by Gavin Wilkinson to keep him from trying to get involved in practice.
After spending yesterday's practice running on the sidelines after an abdominal strain earlier this week, Freddy Braun was back out with the team for warm ups once again.
Before practice, Valencia and Sebastian Rincon were passing the ball back and forth across the pitch. Rincon's accuracy with the long pass was average at best, but Valencia seemed to be dropping the ball directly Rincon each time. While addressing the press after practice today, Wilkinson confirmed that Valencia is on track to see some time with the reserves on Sunday.
Rodney Wallace, who by process of elimination almost has to be the Timbers starting left back against Seattle tomorrow afternoon, was among the last players to come out of the locker room and join in practice, which under Wilkinson has been a good sign that a player is in the 18.
On the team's preparations for tomorrow's game
I think that whenever you are playing Seattle there are a lot of distractions off the field and it is a matter of managing those and letting the players stay focused on the game. Preparations are going as well as you can expect.
On avoiding distractions for the players
For [Darlington Nagbe], when the camera crews were on him he was special, so I don't really mind too much as long as all the players react that way. Most of them have been around it before. They know what is at hand, they know how important the game is and how important it is for them to focus.
If anything it is a constant reminder that they have a job to do and that they do need to focus.
On the availability of Lovel Palmer and Steve Purdy
It will be a game day decision [on Palmer]. With Lovel, he came back with a bad knock, as did Steve Purdy. Steve Purdy is definitely out and Lovel is a big question mark.
On who will cover for Steven Smith at left back
I can't tell you, because then you will write about it, then they will know about it well beforehand. For us, Ian Hogg came in for a reason, Rodney Wallace has come back from international duty and looked very good, so we have options. With Lovel, we are still waiting to see if he is available.
On keeping players from getting too hyped up for a game like this
As you saw in the warm up it is to try and relax the group a little bit more. Still stay focused and professional, but bring out a little bit of life, a little bit of personality in the players. It is just like any other game, it just means a lot more. We remind them that it is just like any other game, we just expect a lot more out of you.
The mentality going into the game is one of discipline, one of winning your individual battles, and one to see if we can keep the ball moving ad start to create holes in their back line that we can exploit. We met with the players today, the game plan is out there as far as what we want to do and how we want to go about the game. Now it is a matter of, basically, executing the game plan and seeing if we can get a result.
On the physical nature of the rivalry
Hopefully it will be a very controlled physical [game]. You expect any derby game to be very much a high intensity affair with both teams wanting to win. For Seattle there is something on the line. We've beaten them at home this season. The Cascadia Cup is something that is important to them and their fan base as well. For us it is more important right now, based on how the seasons have gone.
I know it is important that all the players stay disciplined, stay focused on the job at hand, and look to move forward as a team. It is important that we do remain calm, keep our shape, keep our discipline, and try and get our jobs done. It is going to be a battle, you hope it would be a battle. It is a lot more entertaining. You hope it is a battle that you win in every department.
On Jose Adolfo Valencia playing with the reserves
We are going to look to bring him in against Seattle in the reserve game and see how he does. He has looked pretty good in training and for this to be his first moment joining the group and for him to actually be doing as good as he has been, it is exciting.
On the possibility of the team making a trade before the roster freeze deadline
There has been a lot of discussion of several moves that have involved bringing a couple of players in , potentially losing a couple, but for us there is always that possibility. A lot of teams are very anxious around this time of the year. It is also very important that we allow Caleb adequate opportunity to evaluate the players that we have on board. We are still in the works, but it is also very important that nothing distracts us from the game tomorrow.
On Kris Boyd's place on the team
He is in the squad for the Seattle game, he is fighting to be in the starting line up. We have got Bright Dike who has come in and done well. I think that when Bright is being effective it is difficult for another player and now the pressure is on Bright; can he continue to do that? If not you have Kris Boyd who can come in and do that job if needed.
You always look to develop a squad with depth and right now we have a little bit of depth up top, so it is a healthy problem to have. There is always one or two players that are going to be unhappy about the situation, but if they perform and respond positively and work a a little bit harder and make the most of their opportunities they could start the next game.
On Kris Boyd's future with the club
He has a two year contract. He was left out of the line up a couple weeks ago and Bright made the most of the opportunity. I think that for the integrity of the group and the honesty of the group, when somebody does well, you need to reward them and Bright got rewarded for a good performance and a solid performance.
That is not to say Kris Boyd isn't a very talented player, it is just that now with the integrity of the squad where we are at in the season and what we are trying to find out about players it is important that we do reward good performances.
On Kris Boyd's level of fitness
We have a fitness staff and a fitness coach on board where we put a lot of emphasis on making sure that each player is in peak condition. Some players obviously go in and out of shape or in and out of fitness, so it is up to us to identify that and work with the player. All players have to be willing to make the sacrifice to keep themselves in shape when they are not playing.
On if the Cascadia Cup is now the team's main goal
We have got three Cascadia games left and it would be extremely nice for us to win this game. There is a lot of emphasis on the game tomorrow but we are very interested in the players performances individually and collectively as well. Ultimately, if you take care of the processes the results will take care of themselves. We are very interested in the process and in trying to dominate several areas: possession, duals won, passes completed, and starting to see if we can elevate our game on a regular basis and not just at home.
On if the players are playing for a spot on the team next year
I know that [Caleb Porter] will be watching with an awful lot of interest. It is a televised game and most players respond differently to televised games. It is important that we have players with big game mentalities as well.
On the game being televised on broadcast television
I think it is a great environment, a great atmosphere. Some of the performances on the field have been very good, but it is important for us to put it together at a key moment. Being a nationally televised game it is important for big players to have big games and to make the most of the this opportunity and for us to showcase this organization in a positive way is always a motivating factor. I am sure the staff sees it, the players see it, and hopefully we move forward and get a positive result.
On the game starting early in the day
I always like it when it is dark, when the lights are on the field, when you are giving people the chance to use that as the highlight of their day. Playing the games at seven or eight o'clock, I think you can do that, I think you can pour all your energy into it. When the suns out in the middle of the day I think it takes away a little bit from the atmosphere. That's just me personally. With that, you would rather a little bit of rain, going back to our opening night maybe not that much, but there is an ideal atmosphere.
I am really against traveling and playing earlier games, because of the time difference. Doing it at home with two teams, Seattle and Portland, that are in the same time-zone it is not a negative. It just doesn't add to the occasion in my mind.
On if playing early in the day is easier for coaches and players
I'm in the office from about nine am and there are plenty of distractions in the stadium and plenty of work to get done when you are wearing several hats, but the 12:30 kick off is actually a little bit better for coaches and for players because you are not waiting around all day waiting for the game. You get up and get the job done and hopefully we get the job done very well.