The Portland Timbers put in their final practice of the week today at Providence Park before they host Chivas USA tomorrow. The bulk of today's practice was closed to the press, but the final stretching and cooldown were open, allowing the press to see a team that looked to be in high spirits before they headed indoors.
With practice wrapped up for the day, Caleb Porter addressed the press and gave some insight into the situation surrounding the Timbers' defensive line after they conceded four goals last week.
I do a lot of thinking and a lot of watching tape, a lot of watching my team in training, and I outside of training too. That is an important thing as well. I think last year we had very good chemistry. That was a big part of us winning. I think we will get that going again, but for whatever reason I don't think we have got it going completely the way we want yet.
Looking at the Timbers' defensive success last year, Porter talked about the steps it took over the course of the season to put together the team's back line.
I think any coach wants a consistent back four. That is the area of your team, outside of every other line, that you want to maintain continuity. If you remember last year, we did not develop that continuity until late in the year. We had some injuries and then mid-season we tinkered a little bit because we weren't getting what we wanted and then, in the end, we developed some confidence and some rhythm and understanding.
Porter told the press that getting the defense and the attack fully functioning at the same time was a priority.
This year we have played a couple different guys there and we have tinkered with that. Early on it wasn't bad, we weren't giving up many goals, but our attack wasn't playing well. We have that going now, the light-bulb is on, we are attacking well, but the defending is not well, so for me this week it was all about getting that right. If we can get the light-bulbs going on while we are attacking and defending at the same time then we are going to have a much better chance of getting three points.
Injuries and Absences
Donovan Ricketts was again on the pitch with the team again today. This time he was punting the ball back and with Andrew Weber while the field players stretched. When Porter was asked how his keeper was doing, he told the press Ricketts was "good."
Will Johnson was again in the group of players stretching and, after going inside for treatment after practice wrapped up, returned to talk to the press. Talking about the knock he suffered against the Seattle Sounders last Satuday, Johnson said, "It's the point in the season where you don't want to push it too much, you handle things professionally, you do your work, and you get back out there. I am feeling good, so I am happy about that."
Steve Zakuani was on the sidelines with a trainer at the end of practice, rather than in the group stretching. This is the second practice in a row that Zakuani has been spotted with a trainer rather than in the group cooldown, which seems like a strong hint that he will not be in the starting lineup. Porter mentioned Zakuani after practice while talking about the Timbers' match ups against Chivas's converted fullback Eric Avila, saying that he could match up well against the former attacking midfielder.
Rodney Wallace continued his increased activity at practice today, running on the touchline and juggling a ball under the watchful eye of one of the trainers.
Trialists and Guest Players
Mechack Jerome, a 23-year-old Haitian right-back, was on trial with the team today, and has been with the team for the whole week according to Porter. Jerome last played for Sporting Kansas City, making 12 appearances between 2013 and 2014 before being waived on March 31st of this year.
Daniel Withrow continued his time training with the Timbers today, although at this point it looks unlikey that he will be needed on the bench.