The team held a closed training session at Jeld-Wen Field today, shutting out the press earlier than normal while the team was still doing their usual warm ups. When practice was reopened the team was broken up into two groups as the younger players and reserves held a longer workout at the far end of the pitch and the potential players for tomorrow played games of 6v6 with one team providing one-two passes along the sidelines.
The big question marks for tomorrow's match are Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, and Donovan Ricketts. While Chara and Ricketts are both close to being recovered form the injuries that they suffered against the Seattle Sounders, Gavin Wilkinson made it clear that the team would be taking into account the effect that bring them back too early might have on their injuries. Jack Jewsbury, while uninjured, is one yellow card away from a suspension and could be kept on the bench to make sure that he is available for Seattle next weekend.
Line Up Speculation
I think it is fair to say that we will see some significant changes in the midfield with both Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury possibly being held out of tomorrow's game. Eric Alexander and Rodney Wallace, both of whom have received positive reviews from Wilkinson after filling in in the center of the pitch, seem like a possibility as a central midfield pairing.
My money is on the Timbers changing things up once again and going with a 4-4-1-1 featuring Joe Bendik in goal; a totally unsurprising defense of Kosuke Kimura, David Horst, Hanyer Mosquera, and Steven Smith; Alexander and Wallace in the center of the midfield with Sal Zizzo and Darlington Nagbe on the wings; and finally Bright Dike up top with Danny Mwanga playing behind him as a second striker.
Look for a couple surprises from the bench as well as I think that there is a good chance Brent Richards makes his way back into the eighteen again. Also, Mike Fucito looked good finishing in practice today after everything was wrapped up and I get the feeling that he is going to see time on the pitch against DC.
Injuries and Absences
Kris Boyd and Kalif Alhassan were both out of training today. Alhassan is still suffering from patellar tendinitis, an issue that has affected him all season, and will be a game day decision according to Wilkinson.
Lovel Palmer and Diego Chara both went the distance at practice today, participating in the team's small sided game to close out training. This is the second full practice for Chara since his injury and the first for Palmer.
Jake Gleeson and Donovan Ricketts both were participating in the goalie drills to open up practice. At the end of the day, however, only Gleeson took part in the small sided game. According to keeper coach Mike Toshack yesterday, Gleeson will be on the bench tomorrow.
Cam Vickers and Mobi Fehr both continued to work out with the team today.
On the state of the team going into tomorrow's game
"Good. They have been working hard all week. For us it is a matter of staying focused, keeping the guys concentrated, and making sure that they know that maybe playoffs aren't an option, but self-preservation, personal pride, and their personal integrity is at stake. We are asking them to be honest for the rest of the season and show what they can do."
On keeping the team focused on this game
"We owe it to the organization and the fans, to be honest. I think the players, for various reasons, feel that we don't deserve to be where we are at on the table, looking at different results, looking at what could have been, and to go out there and show the same emotion while keeping disciplined.
I think it is important that they go out there and show what they can do as individuals and collectively. The only way they are going to get to play in the Seattle game is if they play well against DC."
On if the team is aware that they are playing with Caleb Porter watching
"He is watching, analyzing, and critiquing, so for the players it is important to show what they can do and the first thing that a player has to do is show that they have the right mentality, the right work ethic, and go out and perform the way that they are capable of performing.
We don't want to go into the end of the season having questioned anybody's work ethic or discipline or ethics in general going into the end of the season. Then we want them to play well. We want the players to collectively as a unit. We want them, individually and collectively, to showcase themselves."
On what mentality the team is looking for from the players
"We go back to winning individual battles and working hard, tracking players, making sure that they are not hanging one another out to dry, as such. If you look at the performances as of late by and large it has been very good, so we are asking them to do what they have been doing and each player take responsibility for the individual moments within the game."
On the team's mentality as a whole
"I think that they are good people. Good people in the locker room are very important. I think the mentality by and large has been very good. I think the work rate and the attitude and everything lately has been unquestionable and we are asking them to continue with that. They understand it is rough times and tough times and they have responded very well. I think you can see it in their performances.
They have gone into various environments in San Jose and Salt Lake. You look at Real Salt Lake and I still think we should have come away with more out of that game and we were unlucky, but never once did they stop working. They look to play the game the right way, how we want to play it, and we were unlucky not to get a result in those games."
On Diego Chara
"Diego is available and there is still a chance that he will be playing. With us it is also managing various players. We know that [Jack Jewsbury] is one card away from a suspension and do we risk Diego now going into the Seattle game? Obviously they are both important but one holds a little bit more priority over the other. We are just contemplating and speaking with the medical staff as to whether it is worth risking Diego in this game."
On Donovan Ricketts
"It is just precautionary at this stage. He is available to play. For us, we have got to make a decision, do we risk the possibility of re-injuring him? We have got to make sure that we take the other games in to account as well.
There are four games left in the season and with Donovan we would love to see him play all four. [Joe Bendik] has done well, so now it is just a matter of making the decision based on whether we can get ninety minutes out of him and whether we can get another three sets of ninety minutes."
On if the team is downplaying tomorrow's game against DC United
"No. I am not downplaying it at all. It is just a matter of managing bodies and rewarding players that have done well, but also managing injuries. Donovan is an experienced professional. If this was a final right now he would be playing."
On Jake Gleeson
"Jake is fully fit and will be in the squad, so available for selection is the only way I could clarify that one."
On Rodney Wallace playing in the center of the pitch
"I think Rodney has done really well. I think in San Jose he came in and did a great job with Jack. We made adjustments based on the way that Salt Lake played, and San Jose. In the Salt Lake game we made other adjustments and used him in a slightly different position.
With Rodney, he gives us energy, he's good on the ball, he gets forward and he has the ability to score, and we want to attack teams. It is probably more beneficial to him playing at home. It is where he has been most dangerous and it's where he has created most of his scoring chances and his attitude and effort is, everything about Rodney lately has been absolutely superb. Again, it is rewarding a player that has done well.
We have two good players that could play left back and other players that can come in, so now it is a matter of getting what we feel is the best players out on the field to get the job done."
On Kalif Alhassan
"[He has] patellar tendinitis. It is one that has been reoccurring with him. I would love to have him out on the field. I think that he has been a very talented player, but he has had a continual problem with his knee and it is just one that we have got to get right.
We are coming into a stage in the season where, could we play him? Yes, but is it worth risking further injury? We are contemplating leaving him out of the squad but that will be a decision that is made later today."