With two games against Colorado in six days, the Timbers had a light practice session today at the team's Beaverton training center. Friday's starting eleven broke off and took part in a short regen session before heading inside while the rest of the team did their fitness work and played a short field game.
Jose Adolfo Valencia was once again training with the team and stayed out on the pitch for much longer than usual. Although he did not get to mix it up in the short field game, he did stay on the sidelines to provide an outlet pass that players could take advantage of. Over the course of the game he showed off some good touch and vision, controlling the ball well before threading a well controlled pass through the defense.
Trialist Pablo Di Fiori and practice payer Cam Vickers were still practicing with the team today. Vickers, who played with the Timbers U23s this year, has been the team's utility man since joining up with the Timbers and continued to do so today as he manned the opposite sideline to Valencia, providing a much more mobile option for the attacking team to pass off of.
Di Fiori mixed it up in the center of the pitch during the short field game and looked much more in synch with the team than he did during last week's reserve game against San Jose. However, his style of play still seems to be on a different page from what Wilkinson is doing with the team right now and the style in which Caleb Porter's teams ten to play.
More practice notes plus quotes from Donovan Ricketts, Gavin Wilkinson, and Bright Dike after the jump.
- In the small sided game, Danny Mwanga showed off his ability to quickly turn and get a shot off to good effect several times, something that Timbers fans got to see briefly against Vancouver.
- Kris Boyd really is good at dribbling with pressure all around him. At one point during today's short field game he managed to find his way out of a tangle of three defenders and coolly slot the ball home past Jake Gleeson.
- Ryan Kawulok really looks good going forward in practice and given the opportunity has a pretty wicked shot. He didn't have much joy finding the back of the net today, but he came close several times and is usually one of the leaidng scorers in practice.
- Eric Brunner can play a very nice pass out of the back. Several times I thought he had played one that would be picked off, but each time somehow it slide through all opposition and arrived at his target all the way down field.
On if he has heard lots of talk about winning on the road
Yeah, especially at the end of the season when you are trying to put a run together it is important, so on Wednesday we hope to put that right.
On what it takes to win on the road
It is just down to getting in the right frame of mind. It is still a game of soccer, no matter where you play. You just go, you play, you control the game and the results will follow.
On what he has told the team about winning on the road
We just try to not talk too much about it or it becomes an issues and if it becomes an issue you start thinking about it and it stays in your mind. It is just about enjoying the game and just playing the game. We've played two games on the road now and we've played well. I know the results will come and we will just keep on playing.
On getting a clean sheet
It is always a good feeling getting a clean sheet and I think that we have been rewarded for all the hard work that we have been putting in. Defensively we are getting better so hopefully we can continue doing that.
On if he is getting more comfortable with his defenders
We are getting comfortable ever day in practice the more we play together. You talk to guys, you get to know everyone.
On lifting his first log slice
I think that I hurt my arm lifting that log (Laughing). It is a good feeling, the clean sheet, and the log is just like a little reward for that. Everyone likes rewards, so hopefully I will be lifting more logs.
On how his arm is feeling
It is a slight little sprain but I should be okay.
On playing on the road
It is a challenge isn't it? Colorado is a very difficult place to play at altitude and for them they are just coming off a loss and probably felt that they deserved more from the second half. Looking at the clear cut opportunities we should have buried the game at half time, but for them they probably feel a little bit hard done by.
For us it is going to be very important to come out of the gate as we did against New York and try to dominate the game and then go with the momentum. It is important that we don't step back and we don't camp in our half, as such, and look to see if we can control the ball and play the same way on the road that we do at home.
On the player's state of mind when playing on the road
We bring it up constantly just to see how mentally tough we are and, for me I have said it a lot and so many times, we are trying to tick a lot of boxes and for the group I see it as another challenge. I see it as an opportunity to put these things behind us, to go on the road and get a good result.
For the group I said that if I was an opponent right now looking at us, I could question the mentality of the group, is that a fair question, and is it true? For us we go out there, we win our individual battles, we work hard, we play for ninety minutes, and we see if we can get a result.
On if teams will try to off-balance the Timbers on the road
Yeah, I think so and I think that the first fifteen minutes will dictate how the game will go. I think it is very important that we come out and look to dominate the game, create a little bit of rhythm, and keep the ball.
I think we are a better team when we keep the ball and keep the ball moving. We are not a better team when we just defense. I think that the second half against Colorado we didn't really put our foot on the ball, we didn't get our midfielders as involved as what I would like. That was a little bit of a learning curve for us and luckily it happened when we've gone a goal up.
For us it is very important that we go into this game very positive and look to see if we can keep the ball, develop rhythm, but the first fifteen minutes is essential for us.
On having an established starting eleven
It is fantastic. They've earned it as well. I think that we've had some very solid performances, consistent performances, and they deserve it. I think Eric Alexander would be the one who would feel a little bit hard done by and he is still going to feature for us a lot in many different ways, so as long as we keep them engaged we will be fine.
On the play between Sal Zizzo and Bright Dike
I think very happy. Ultimately I would like to play with two up top and see if we can cause more problems with the balance in the middle of the park and our personalities, trying to get more out of players. We are playing with Bright up top by himself but Sal is getting forward a lot, Franck Songo'o is getting forward, and [Darlington Nagbe] could have a had a good goal just before half-time.
I am delighted to see Sal Zizzo combining with Bright Dike and I think that Bright deserves a lot of credit as he is putting in a lot of work at the moment. He's playing as a lone forward in a 4-3-3; it's tough work and he is doing a great job.
On getting a clean sheet
I think [Hanyer Mosquera] and David Horst, Steven smith and [Kosuke Kimura] all had very good games and I thought that the shape was very good. [Colorado] had one very good chance with a ball in to [Omar Cummings] that we should have done a little bit better with, but apart from that they didn't create a lot of open opportunities.
We had a couple. [Matt Pickins] pulled off a great save from Jack Jewsbury and Nagbe could have had one and we had a few other ones, Bright Dike wet one on one and slid it wide. I think we are playing the way I want to play and I think the mentality is there and the organization is there. We still need to create more opportunities though.
On Bright Dike's style of play
I think that if a defender plays against Dike he is going to be hurting at the end of the game. He challenges for anything, for everything, he is honest in the way he plays, he runs things down, and he hold the ball up for us. He is just an honest player.
With Dike, any defender that is going to play against him twice in a limited time span is not going to look forward to it because you know he is honest, you know he is going to run, you know he is going to challenge for everything, and I am sure the defenders are hurting after the game.
On how sick the team is of being asked about winning one the road
It is a weakness and at the moment you would say that it is not down to their ability, it is down to their mentality, and mentally we have got to be a stronger team. I think we are starting to cure some of those things. We've gone to Toronto and tied 2-2, we scored two goals in New York, and now we have the belief that we will score on the road.
We need to continue to score, to put team under pressure. Prior to that it was, how are we going to win this game when we are not scoring? Now we are scoring on the road and we've just got a clean sheet. There is a lot of positives to take into this game and if we can overcome the altitude and the mental side of things I think we are in for our first win.
On playing Colorado back to back
I think that with the way the second half went, if we had dominated the second half and created numerous opportunities I think you would question complacency, you would question the mentality going into the game.
I think Colorado kept us on our toes, they kept us honest, and it's important that we go into the game remembering what happened in the later stages in the second half and work on that because that could be similar to how the game goes in Colorado if we do not take care of the ball, if we sit as deep as we did.
We have got to play a little bit higher. They don't have a lot of pace to beat us up high. With Omar Cummings being gone with national team duty we are hoping to play the game a little bit higher, we are looking to keep possession in the middle of the park. I don't think that complacency will be an issue based on the pressure that they put us under in the second half.
On Darlington Nagbe's play against Colorado
Even them trying to contain Darlington, they play with two holding midfielders and an attacking midfielder, Darlington did find a lot of space. Colorado is a lot bigger. We have a lot more pace than they do.
If you are going into it the way that both coaches would be looking at it, we have got a lot of pace that needs to be taken care of and we don't mind isolating individuals one on one. I am sure that they don't like that but with Darlington on a field the size of Colorado... Mentally we are up for it and he'll expose the amount of space and I am sure he will start to get more time on the ball.
On if he is enjoying playing right now
It is great. I'm loving it. Hopefully we can keep it going and keep this run going.
On if he is surprised at the success he is having on the pitch
You never have that expectation. You just keep working hard and hopefully good things will come from it.
On the difficulty of suffering a long term injury and going on loan
It is kind of crazy. You never know what is going to happen. You just have good teammates and friends on the team that help you push through it and help you to be motivated and focused to keep getting better every single day.
On if he ever got down on himself
It'll happen sometimes, but that is why you have got good teammates and good friends, to help you push through that.
It is not necessarily that I felt down. I am just going to do anything I can to become a better player and that when I come back home I am going to be a better player than when I left. That's really what it was all about.
When I was there I think the coaches were like, you're looking great; keep playing like this and you'll do well.
On if he improved as a player since coming back from injury
Oh, definitely. I think everything, ball touch wise, speed on the ball, control, all those things. I just watch myself and look at video and it is a different player. It is great.
Having people like [Jack Jewsbury] standing over there, [Futty Danso], even Boyd, I will watch some of the things that they do in practice every day and you learn from them.
I don't necessarily know if it is the injury, I think it is more just the will to train hard and get better every single day. That is what I really struggled to do. I think that you really appreciate the level of quality of players here and that just makes you appreciate the ability on the ball of some of these players. They are really special and you try to take the things that you feel like you could take from them.
On his chemistry with Sal Zizzo
It is a great chemistry. Any time you have someone on the wing like that I know that it is my job to be in the box when he is isolated on the wing. I know what he is capable of and it is just having that chemisty and knowing a player's tendencies like that is really good.
We always talk, have a couple lunches together, whether it is on or off the field. I think that we have always looked at each other on the field and know what each other are capable of and try to make each other better players.
On getting a win on the road
We have just got to go in focused and have the same attitude as we had at home. I think that has been the difference, really, just taking in everything and having the same energy and the same attitude as we have at home. We haven't been able to do that but hopefully we can do that on Wednesday.
On the possibility of making the playoffs
You never know what is going to happen. We are one game behind Vancouver, ten points behind them. We could slip in to seventh if we got this win and we would still have one game in hand, so you never know what is going to happen. I don't ever count myself out until it is over with.
Obviously we have got a lot of things going on. We get a two game streak and everyone is thinking, oh, maybe that can happen. It is our job to create that hope and if it doesn't happen it doesn't happen but we are going to go down fighting.
On if his successful return from injury informs his point of view
It just tells you that not everything is always going to go your way but you can always fight back through something. That's what you are supposed to do as a professional: any setbacks or troubles you have, you are supposed to fight through them.
Not everything is going to be sunshine. You've got to expect that and learn from it, get better from it. You are going to have your good days and your bad days.