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The Timbers held a closed practice today at the team's Beaverton training facility without general manager and interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson in attendance. While Wilkinson was away tending to his duties as GM, Sean McAuley ran practice with a number of players returning from injury.
The Timbers had some visitors at practice today (aside from the usual media) as a group of Haitian youth soccer coaches were on hand to take in training. The group was in attendance through Mercy Corps, a Timbers community partner focused on helping to build communities and based here in Portland. After practice, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, whose parents immigrated to the US from Haiti in the 1980's, talked with the coaches.
Practice itself seemed to have a light tone during warm ups as the players joked with each other. The Timbers did their usual running and games of keep away before breaking off to play a short field game of 8v8, focusing on quick play and one-two passing, as practice closed.
Injuries and Absences
First team regulars Diego Chara and Donovan Ricketts both warmed up with the team as they returned from injuries suffered against the Seattle Sounders two weeks ago. Chara left the pitch after warm ups while Donovan joined the rest of the team's keepers. Although Ricketts did wear his goalkeeping gloves, he did not take a turn in goal before practice was closed, only shooting on goal and practicing his touch. McAuley was cagy on the status of both players, emphasizing that it was important to keep in mind their long term health as well as the short term.
Jake Gleeson also returned from a Sounders inflicted injury today, taking his first turn in goal since suffering a bone bruise and partially torn ligament in his hand while playing with the reserves. Although he did grimace while making a couple of saves, Gleeson did not show any hesitation in his keeping.
Three players who were out for significantly longer, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Steve Purdy, and Freddie Braun, were back in training today for the warm ups. All three were out on the pitch for the entire practice until training was closed, although only AJB and Purdy were still on the pitch when practice ended.
Lovel Palmer and Kris Boyd were the only absences from the pitch. Palmer, who injured his knee against San Jose last Wednesday, watched practice from the sidelines before heading inside to work with the team's trainers. Boyd, however, was not to be seen.
The Timbers had a new face in practice today, defender Mobi Fehr practiced with the team. Fehr, who turns 18 in December, is a member of the USA U-20 national team pool and played with Timbers midfielder Charles Renken on the USA U-17's. Fehr most recently trained with FC Basel in Switzerland. (Check out his USA bio here)
Also in attendance was Timbers U-18's keeper Mitch North. North recently came on for Jake Gleeson against the Seattle Sounders reserves. Academy keeper coach and former Timber Steve Reese was on hand to watch the keepers practice.
Finally, former Timbers U-23 player Cam Vickers continued practicing with the team.
On the results of the Timbers' road trip
We are obviously disappointed that we didn't get more out of both games. You have got to look at the opposition that we are playing against and see that there has been some progression being made.
We were two - nil up then [the San Jose Earthquakes] started trying to get back into the game by playing very direct. Credit to them for doing that because they did get back into the game. We were looking at what we could have maybe done differently and it is a situation where if we scored the winning goal in the last second of the game nobody looks at it. We are disappointed that we couldn't hold out in that one.
Then in the second game [against Real Salt Lake] after going two goals down we were extremely disappointed, especially from set plays and free kicks, but I thought we worked really hard in coming back and then, of course, getting the goal to give us a chance of getting something out of the game.
I thought we kept possession very well and tried to create opportunities. At the other end, while we were doing that, we left ourselves quite open for what would be a counter attack for the home team, which is unusual. I thought [Joe Bendik] pulled off a couple of good saves.
Overall, disappointed that we didn't get more out of the games, but relatively please with the performance of the team.
On being a spoiler against DC United this weekend
We have to win every game that we play. You play and you want to win. That is the bottom line and if we spoil somebody's shot then so be it, but we are more so looking at what we can do ourselves. At this football club you have got a responsibility toward the supporters and they expect nothing else from every one of the players than to go out there and get a win.
On what the team is looking for from players for next year
You are constantly developing your side, constantly looking to improve your side. Now, whether that is with the guys that you've got, if you can improve them individually to make the team better, or if you have got to go and recruit players. You are constantly looking to improve whether it is the first week of preseason or the last week of the season.
So, from our standpoint, and the players know that as well, in fact we discussed it while we were on the road, there is a hell of a lot to play for. We will be going out there. We have got the two games against our rivals but the other two games don't go into any insignificance. We are looking to win.
On Kris Boyd
Kris has come up with and injury which is currently being treated and that is the latest that we know. Obviously we hope to get him back as soon as possible.
On if Kris Boyd's season is over
I don't know. Sometime players heal quicker than others. It is one of them situations where it is very early in the assessment and the diagnosis of it. We won't know until he starts getting into some physical training whether it is healed the way we want it to in order to be available for the rest of the season. I am sure he will give everything that he has possibly to get into games.
On Diego Chara and Donovan Ricketts
Diego has gone through some warm ups today and we are obviously being careful with what we do in terms of rushing him back but we want to get him back as soon as possible because he is a key member of the team. Likewise Donovan.
What we also have to remember is that we also want to look after the long term futures of these players because they are valuable assets to us and we don't want to put them in a situation where they look to give us a short term gain and a long term headache. We will make sure we wrap them in cotton wool and we have got every faith in the players who replace them to produce the performances needed to get a result.
On Bright Dike's play
Bright scored a great goal over the weekend. He is like a lot of the young players that we've got. We've got exciting young talent at the club and they need to keep improving. I've seen over the years in the experience that I've had in coaching that young players come in on a peak and then they plateau out and it is where that plateau falls is where his career will be. We need to make sure that the peak keeps continuing and that he plateaus into a really good player.
On Danny Mwanga
He did really well, and obviously to get the two goals he did really well, but what we are really pleased with is the way that he was flexible in terms of playing different positions. He played on top, he came off the top of the two and went in behind, he played wide with some defensive responsibilities. We are very pleased with his attitude and his commitment to making it work even though it is the end of the season.
All the players understand my view is that I don't really care about the name on the back of the shirt, it is all about what is one the front of the shirt and that the players who wear that shirt, whoever it is, go out and fight and go out to get a result. Each individual who takes the shirt for the first eleven makes sure that they give their maximum because if not then these other players are ready to come in and take their spot.
On trialist Mobi Fehr
He is another player that, obviously we can't register him for anything other than training, but he has done really well this morning. He is a young player and he has got a good history with the clubs that he has been at out in Switzerland. We are really pleased with how he's been with us this morning and we'll assess him at the end of the season.