Day three of the Portland Timbers' 2014 preseason saw the team once again practicing at Jeld-Wen Field, although the weather had taken a considerably more chilly turn after the weekend's warm temperatures. Today's training saw the team run through a series of passing drills and short field games before moving on to a short field game of eleven on eleven.
Despite being together for only three days so far, the team already looks like a cohesive unit, mislaying very few passes and generally playing on the same page, even as Caleb Porter ran out several different line-ups over the course of practice.
"They only need to communicate with the language of football," Porter said, talking about integrating the team's newly acquired Argentine duo, Gaston Fernandez and Paparatto Norberto, into the lineup. "That's the most important thing: that inside the lines they understand how to play together and connect."
For Porter himself, this year seems to be starting off somewhat more smoothly than 2013.
You feel like you are in a groove a lot quicker and so do these guys, because they know me and I know them. The first thing that I said to them was, "we have a way of working, and the guys that have been here, you understand this; new guys need to get on board quick."
It seems that the new additions have gotten on board. Porter seems optimistic that the team will be in a good position to start the season.
We'll be ahead of where we were last year to start the season, for sure, because we have a group of guys, a core group, that has already been through it and they know the way that we do things. They know the system that we play, the rhythm that we train with; they understand the drills and activities that we use to organize them; they know the roles that we want; so that makes it a lot easier for the the coach and player.
Of course, Porter is wary of things going too easily in the team's preseason.
I'm uncomfortable when I'm comfortable.
Injuries and Absences
Michael Harrington continued his time with the USMNT today. He will not rejoin the Timbers until after the team has departed for their preseason camp in Tucson, Arizona.
Diego Valeri and Steve Zakuani were out on the pitch today doing a series of stability exercises under the guidance of one of the team's new trainers before spending some time running on the perimeter of the pitch. Both players suffered from sports hernias last season and are being brought along slowly by the team's training staff.
Rodney Wallace made an appearance on the sidelines today, juggling the ball while observing practince. Wallace is recovering from knee surgery, necessitated after tearing his ACL in the Timbers' home playoff match against Real Salt Lake.
Steven Evans also came outside briefly to observe practice after working out indoors while he recovers from a minor off-season back surgery.
Mikael Silvestre was again not at practice for unspecified reasons. Caleb Porter reiterated his response from yesterday that a resolution would be reached with Silvestre soon, adding that Silvestre is coming off several injuries and would need to be evaluated physically and mentally by the team.
Trialists and Guest Players
Defensive midfield trialist Richie Menjivar, 23, was still with the team today. Menjivar, although short, stood up well to the physicality of much larger players like rookies Aaron Long and Taylor Peay, with whom he was grouped for much of practice. When placed in the center of the midfield alongside Ben Zemanski, Menjivar provided a very defensive minded option, generally staying back and allowing others to roam forward.
The two non-roster keepers who have been with the team since the preseason started on Saturday were identified by Porter as Justin Luthy and
"a kid named Helmuth Tosh." Luthy, 22, is a product of the Columbus Crew academy and is the winningest keeper in the history of Boston College, where he posted 18 shutouts in the last four years with a 1.07 GAA. (MLS's profile on Luthy can be found here.) The second keeper remains a mystery. Porter also mentioned that another trialist keeper who did not get selected in the draft would be joining the team in Arizona.
Update: "Helmuth Tosh" is actually Joel Helmick, formerly of Longwood University and a 2012 Supplemental Draft pick of the Colorado Rapids.
- Shillo Tshuma got to know what the pro game is like a little better today after getting cleaned out by Diego Chara during the day's closing game of eleven on eleven. Chara, as usual, appeared out of nowhere to dispossess the Timbers' most recent first round pick, sending Tshuma flying with a shoulder to shoulder challenge.
- Maximiliano Urruti looked sharp today, working hard on defense and showing off some skill in the attack. In one game of eleven on eleven, Urruti deftly dribbled around Pa Modou Kah before slipping the ball in behind the defense for Frederic Piquionne, who scored with ease.
- There are several players who seem to approach the game with an almost frantic pace, namely Ben Zemanski and Michael Nanchoff. Both players repeatedly carried the ball into crowded areas today and had to work hard to hold onto it. On oposite end of the spectrum were Tshuma and Bryan Gallego, both of whom are very patient on the ball and generally looked to work the ball around and out of pressure, rather than pressing forward.
- Norberto Paparatto is a tall drink of water, but with the amount of time he spends on the ground slide tackling the ball away you would not know it. His slide tackles are generally effective and he tends to come up with the ball or block it away, but it is clearly his default move and could lead to some tense situations if a player does manage to beat it.