The Portland Timbers held practice today at their Beaverton training facility. Today's training session was the team's first since losing the first leg of the Western Conference Final to Real Salt Lake on Sunday. With a two week break between games to accommodate this weekend's international call-ups, the Timbers are taking an atypical approach to this week.
Practice today started out with the team kicking the ball around in some normal passing drills before departing from the usual. The first sign that this practice might not be like the rest of the season was the drill I have dubbed "competitive hand holding". Two players line up side by side and clasp hands, leaning away from each other and running down the pitch in parrallel, so that they are holding each other up as they run. After reaching a series of cones they let go and race to the finish line.
This was followed up by another race-drill in which a pair of players would, as Caleb Porter instructed them, "jump and bump" into each other in a test of strength before again racing to the finish line.
Once the races were over, the Timbers split into four teams of six and played two simultaneous short-field games of five on five. They played in a round robin format as each team took on the others over the course of approximately half an hour, before the starters from Sunday headed indoors. From there the reserves played one final short-field game before practice wrapped up, this one six on six.
- Sean McAuley took part in the whole practice today, from the warm-ups to the short-field games. He was, as always, a very enthusiastic participant.
- From start to finish the Timbers looked like they were enjoying themselves at practice today.
- In the short-field games the different match-ups produced remarkably different outcomes, with some games being 0-0 draws, others being high-scoring shootouts, and still others being one-sided blowouts.
- The line-up that most surprised me in it's efficiency was Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Sean McAuley, Ben Zemanski, Brad Ring, and Jose Adolfo Valencia. The get-it-to-Trencito (or as I now like to call him, "The Kill") strategy was remarkably effective, even in such close quarters, as Valencia knocked in goal after goal in front of the gathered press.
- At one point Trencito dribbled around his man only to find that the beanie he was wearing had been pulled down over his eyes. Whipping off the offending cap, he suddenly had two defenders bearing down on him. In a moment that looked like the Kill may have been seeing everything in slow motion, he pulled the ball back, threaded it through the interwoven legs of the defenders, and stepped clear into a one on one match up with Milos Kocic. Without a moments hesitation, Trencito flicked the ball into the back of the net with the outside of his foot, his hat still in his hand. It was impressive.
- At one point Sal Zizzo seemed to go down without any contact, exactly the sort of circumstances that are indicative of the sort of injuries that have limited Zizzo so much over the last three years. Thankfully, he was able to pop back up and resume play. Not only that, but he was also suddenly banging in one goal after another. Playing in the center of the pitch, Sal repeatedly picked out the corner of the net until his opposition wised up and started closing him down earlier.
- Other prolific scorers in the mini-tournament were Jack Jewsbury and Steven Evans.
Injuries and Absences
Diego Valeri watched the start of practice from the sidelines today before heading indoors. Valeri, who played the first 53' in the first leg against RSL on Sunday, is still struggling with an adductor strain that he picked up at the end of August.
Pa Modou Kah was on the sidelines of practicve riding and exercise bike today. Kah has been dealing with a shoulder knock for much of the tail end of the season, even getting a scan last week.
Maximiliano Urruti, who is returning from a hamstring strain that kept him out for the last three weeks of the season, fully participated in practice today. Urruti did not look fully game-fit, but he did go the distance today and was active all practice.
David Horst took part in the day's warm-ups, before heading to the sidelines as the team stepped up the physicality.
Sebastian Rincon, who has been on a training stint in Argentina with Tigres for the last two weeks, was still absent from practice today. There was no specific end-date available for Seba's time in Argentina.
Michael Nanchoff is back in town from his half-season loan to Jönköpings in Sweden, but was not at practice today as he continues recovering from an ankle knock.