Update: Quotes from Caleb Porter and more notes added. And now quotes from Jack Jewsbury. And now quotes from Ryan Johnson.
Today's practice was closed from the start as Caleb Porter took to the field with his players for the first time. The press were allowed on the field after half an hour while the Timbers warmed up. After some brief games of keep away, the team broke up into groups of eight, with a game of 8v8 going on while the remainder of the players worked on agility drills and conditioning.
Injuries and Absences
Kris Boyd and Franck Songo'o were the most anticipated absenses in day one of preseason training. Boyd, who has been rumored to be on his way out since the end of last season, is negotiating his release with the team and the word is that his situation should be updated in the next week. In a less contentious situation, Franck Songo'o's contract is being reviewed by the club and could take the next several weeks before his status is set.
Rodney Wallace was also absent from training today. Wallace is currently with the Costa Rican national team, taking part in the Copa Sudamericana, and could rejoin the Timbers for their preseason tournament in Tuscon.
On the injury front, although several players underwent surgery during the offseason, including David Horst and Futty Danso, none were still out injured. Chris Taylor, who missed a substantial part of the 2012 season thanks to undergoing hip surgery, was also out on the pitch today.
Ian Hogg was not in attendance.
Also training with the team today was Jason Dodson, a keeper with the Timbers U23's in 2011 and a recent Stanford graduate.
Michael Nanchoff, formerly of the Vancouver Whitecaps and a former player under Caleb Porter at Akron, is listed as a non-roster player on the Timbers' preseason roster, but was not at practice today.
Practice Notes and Impressions
- Caleb Porter has said all along that the wants his teams to play with high pressure all over the field and he put that into action today, stopping practice to tell players where he wanted them to press and making sure that they did so.
- While playing keep away the team also concentrated on another Porter staple: playing the ball through the centerbacks and having them spring the attack. David Horst looked rusty with his touch and passing in that role, but he was certainly one of the most vocal players on the pitch and looked like he was trying to grasp hold of his role as a leader on the back line.
- Horst may have a new competitor for the loudest guy on the pitch in Milos Kocic. Kocic takes pushing the defense forward seriously when the ball is clear and he lets everyone in the stadium know.
- In all the off-season talk of Diego Chara's fouls and lack of goals and assists, I had forgotten how well he handles the ball. While playing as a CM/RM in 8v8, Chara had several nice moves to beat a defender and create a chance.
- Several of the new arrivals looked up for it in the team's games of 8v8. Ryan Johnson and Will Johnson both showed poise on the ball and good control while playing together on the left flank. Similarly, Mobi Fehr had some great passing and serious composure on the ball. Fehr also seemed to pop up in space consistently and was always available as an outlet.
- It was not all newcomers impressing on the first day; Sebastian Rincon also showed up ready to play and put his speed and dribbling ability on display on several occasions. His fellow Colombian, Jose Adolfo Valencia, also looked good while holding up the ball and passing out of pressure.
- The team's new designated player, Diego Valeri, was somewhat anonymous in the first day of camp and seemed to have trouble getting in to the rhythm of play. Update: Merritt Paulson pointed out via twitter that Valeri had a goal and an assist in the first game of 8v8.
- Sal Zizzo and Kalif Alhassan both dribbled their way out of trouble repeatedly during the 8v8's. Unfortunately for Kalif, he would repeated beat one man and then get dispossessed by another. Zizzo did not have that issue and looked good playing smart combinations after getting around his man.
- Andrew Jean-Baptiste looked sharp during the games of 8v8 as well, putting in several nice tackles and generally being a beast.
On how the first day of training went
I thought it went good. Obviously it is the first day so you know that there are going to be some polayers working the kinks out. Certainly collectively it will take some time for us to get a chemistry together. We have new players in the group and we have players, also, that have been off. But it looks like their fitness level is good, which I am most pleased with, and we have got a lot of talent out there.
It was great to be on the field with them and in the locker room prior to training with them. I have been waiting five months for that.
On the tone that he wants to set for the team
The tone I set in the locker room prior to coming out here is that we are going to have very clear goals. We have a vision of what we are going to do and a methodology of how we are going to do it.
I talked about the power of our team and how important it is that we all stay on board with each other, and at any level that is an important thing: to get the locker room right and the culture right. Those are some things that I, some of the messages that I, wanted to send to them prior to training.
In training it is them figuring out the way that we do things; the way that we train, some of the concepts regarding our style of play.
On what adjustments players needed to make to his style of training
They really enjoyed it. Initially some of the drills are going to be different perhaps. So there is always a learning curve when you throw out new drills, but I thought they got better as it went on and there was some good quality in there.
On Kris Boyd
We are working through his situation right now.
On Franck Songo'o
Another player that we are working through his situation.
On Ryan Miller
He's a box to box outside back, which in our system is important. We need guys that can get up and down the flank and provide width in the attack, but also be honest and disciplined defensively. I think he is an experienced player. He's been in Sweden and played a lot of games. He brings a level of experience that we needed in that position.
On how the Timbers found Ryan Miller
I knew Ryan from Notre Dame. I always liked him as a player there. I knew he was over in Scandinavia and I knew he came into one of the national team camps. When he got on our radar as a guy that we can get we were pleased.
On what he can take away from the first day of practice
You see little tidbits. You see little pictures with certain guys, but really it is tough to read on the first day. They are getting their legs underneath them. There is a lot of that initial eagerness and, you know, there is going to be sloppiness. Again, these guys are learning to play together.
I have some pictures, based off what I saw today, but I will form my opinion based on their body of work over the entire preseason.
On how excited he was for the first day of practice
I am always excited when I get on the field. I was just telling one of the assistants that I am the most alive when I am in the locker room and on the field. Without those two things I have no identity, so it was great to get back out on the field and, really, to get to know some of these guys and to get to work with them.
On what his goal is for this week before leaving for Arizona
We have a periodization, physically. A very methodical approach. Scientific. Our director of sport science, David Cone, has laid that out and that provides a bit of the template for what we will do physically.
From there I have a periodization, tactically, in terms of how I am going to load in certain things on certain days throughout the six weeks that we have before March 3rd. I have certain things that I want to introduce at certain times. There is a method to it.
On how he will communicate his vision for the team to the players
I think learning comes in different ways and organizing your team has to come, for me first and foremost, on the pitch, because they are doing what they learn and ultimately that's how you organize your group: on the pitch. But there's messages in the locker room, there's messages through video, and it all has to add up. It will add up.
On assessing the players
It was important for me to get some of that intel from [the assistant coaches], but that was more during the year. I was having conversations with Gavin, the coaching staff, and I was watching every games and forming my own opinions, but I also wanted to see what they thought on certain guys. How were they on the field, training wise? I wasn't there every day. How were they in the locker room? Off the field? What were some of the habits that they had shown?
From that I developed a bit of an opinion, but ultimately now, with the players that are here, moving forward I am going to formulate my own opinions as well.
On if he has made any decisions on who will be the captain this year
I have not.
On if he will have a captain for the whole year or on a game by game basis
We will see. It depends on how the group shakes out. I'd like to have some time to figure that piece out. Most likely we will have a captain that will be our captain throughout the entire year. I don't think we will be switching our captain every game.
We could have a club captain and a captain that is in the games.
A few choice quotes from Jack:
On the first day of practice
It was very good, very intense, which I think we all expected. He brings a new mentality, a new edge, and I think that we are all excited about getting going this year.
On how the new additions to the team have changed the locker room
There are quite a few new faces. I know that every year you have some changes, probably more so this year than years in the past, but the guys that they brought in I was excited about every one of the transactions as they went down.
They brought in some guys that have played a ton of games, MLS games. They have got experience. They come from places that have a winning mentality and have some good stuff going on. It is great to have those guys here and hopefully they can help us out as well.
On the Cascadia Cup trademark debate
There is a lot of pride that goes into it in terms of that locker room... I know for us, that was something that was huge and something to build off of coming into this season.
On what being captain again would mean to him
It would be huge. Obviously it is something that I have had the last couple of years and it is an honor to put that on every single game, not only for the guys in the locker room but for this whole organization.
A few choice quotes from Ryan:
On how he ended up in Portland
I always said that I liked Toronto. It was a good place to play. I had no problem staying in Toronto, but my agent called me while I was on international duty and said, hey, Portland is a possibility if you want to go there, and I said, of course I want to go there!
On why he wanted to return to Oregon
This is home for me. Besides Boston where I was raised, this is where I chose to get my education for four years and Oregon State is close to my heart.
On working with Caleb Porter
He communicates well with us and he lets us know where we stand. He is a good communicator and you can tell he is a genuine person, so he is definitely going to get the best out of players.
On if he thought about playing in front of the Timbers Army
For years. It is kind of hard when you are at a club where your club wants you and you are doing well for your club and things like that, but I have always wanted to play in front of these fans. Especially this area [waves to the North End] where you just look up and all you see is a sea of green. This is a place where I've always wanted to be. I've got to pinch myself sometimes that I am actually here in Portland.
Will Johnson and Ryan Miller will have to wait, as I have to head to work. If you have any questions on practice leave them in the comments and I will try to answer when I have a chance.