I had the opportunity to attend the Portland Timbers training session this morning. It was weird walking up to training session, because you had to walk by a youth girls game and the teams getting ready to play next. Kind of made me smile thinking that right next to these U-15 Girls was a professional soccer team training for their season.
When I arrived the team was going through passing drills at game speed, trying to simulate the movement they need after receiving and passing the ball. During this drill you could see how quick Darlington Nagbe is, and for a big forward how quick Kenny Cooper's feet really are. I didn't see anyone loafing about, all were committed to working as hard as the possibly could.
After the drills the real reason I wanted to observe training came, 10 v 10 games. The 10 minute mini games were played at a high energy level. Which will be good once it comes to game situations. Nagbe and Cooper played on one side up top, while Ryan Pore and Doug Demartin played up top for the other team. The first ten minutes were played on a small field, the goals were placed at the top of the 18 yard box. (They were training on a youth sized field which looked to be about 15-20 yards shorter than a full sized field.) The congestion really was evident in the sloppy play. The next 10 mins the goals were moved back 10 yards to about the 6 yard box. Opening up the field really led to a lot more flow to the scrimmage.
Some observations I had:
- Kenny Cooper is bigger than all of our defenders except for Mamadou Danso. He also doesn't take practice off, at one point he had a hold of Kalif Alhassan's shorts and man handled him off the ball.
- Rodney Wallace played left back and really got forward to join the attack.
- Darlington has the skills, however sometimes he is too tentative, meaning he defers to his teammates or tries to get others involved even though he may have a shot on goal. There are times where he takes people on. He scored an amazing goal by beating two defenders and hitting it far post.
- Kevin Goldthwaite takes a very vocal role on the back line. He also is not afraid to call a teammate out for not being in position or losing their man.
- Adin Brown is also very vocal in organizing the defense. Troy Perkins does to, it just seems Brown is a little louder.
- After training was over for the field players Kenny Cooper went immediately to the keepers and began shooting on them during their workout.
- Peter Lowry was great with the distribution of the ball through the middle of the pitch
- Tony McManus was his usual self. Amazing how often he breaks up an attack or makes a tackle that immediately leads to a shot or a goal.
- Josh Cameron looked overwhelmed playing right mid against Rodney Wallace and Kalif Alahassan. I am not sure he is going to make the team if he continues with that type of performance.
- The defenders on both sides were vocal with each other and really had a good shape. To be honest they looked better than I thought they would. As a collective whole they seem to be ready for Major League Soccer.
The biggest thing I came away after watching this training was that the chemistry is there, I can see it really developing. At first I thought this might be a "coachism" from John Spencer, Kind of like saying a girl is "a sweet spirit" when you think she is un-attractive, but it isn't. You can really see they are working together. They are also working hard and contesting everything. Creating a competition for every spot has really payed off in terms of getting the most out of the players.