The Timbers training yesterday was fairly straight forward. After warm ups concentrating on checking toward a player to receive a pass, the Timbers broke into a three team game with the top scorer and best defender being bought lunch by Coach Spencer.
Omar Jasseh continued his trial with the team, combining well with other players several times during practice and generally looking very slick with the ball. The Timbers are certainly somewhat thin in depth on the wings and Jasseh, an 18 year old Ghanaian with European club pedigree, would be a good add there.
Every player not out with a long term injury played the full practice and the Timbers are looking healthy ahead of this weekend’s game against Vancouver.
Quotes from coach John Spencer and goal keeper Troy Perkins after the jump.
Coach John Spencer
On last Saturday’s game against the New York Red Bulls
I think we played well over the weekend. I thought we started the game well. A couple of things I felt changed the momentum a little bit then [New York] came into the game. They are a good team. They get a goal then go one-nil up and we regrouped a little bit, came in at half-time and started the second half again.
We were very unlucky not to equalize with [Kalif Alhassan's] and [Kenny Cooper’]s chances and then obviously the penalty incident just totally kills the game off for them.
It was a penalty kick and a red card as we all know and the problem we have with that decision is you see the game of our opponents, Vancouver, there is a blatant handball and their important player is going to start this weekend and we won’t have one of our important players starting this weekend. So, that’s a bit of an annoyance.
On if the team prepares differently for road games
No, we do the exact same game preparation. Every game we go and try to win the game. I just think it comes down to maturity. Traveling different places, a lot of thee young guys haven’t done it before. And when we say our young guys, we are talking about our [Kalif Alhassan] and [Sal Zizzo] [and] [Darlington Nagbe]. You know, [Jorge Perlaza] and [Diego Chara] are not used to the travel in the country [and] the time changes. It is a difficult league to come in and make an impact right away as we have seen with some world class players that have come in to this league. They haven’t started great and it took them a little bit of time to become [accustomed] to the league itself. So, I think away from home, it is always harder to play away from home, as you know, because teams are going to come at you as we do with teams at Jeld-Wen. It’s a learning process.
I think we’ve been excellent at home. If you look at how many games we’ve won this year, we’ve actually won ten games and whether at home or away we’ve still won [those] ten games. They are not easy games just because you play at home ad I think if you look at teams that are sitting on playoff positions right now, a lot of them are sitting on nine or ten wins. So I think we’ve actually had a great season so far.
On playing in the Vancouver Whitecaps' new stadium on Sunday
We play in a new stadium in front of big crowds every week so that should not effect us. I don’t think the crowd or the new stadium is going to effect us. We have a beautiful new stadium here at Jeld-Wen, we’ve got a magnificent crowd behind us. That shouldn’t be a factor. As I say, we went to New York this weekend to a crowd that was supposedly a sellout, which wasn’t. You create your own atmosphere.
The games are ticking down now, we know we need to go and get maximum points this weekend. I think Vancouver, the one thing that they will be playing for is the two expansion teams meeting each other. One has got a chance of making the playoffs and one has got a chance of stopping the other from making playoffs. I think that’s the big incentive that they have this weekend, to stop us trying to get there.
On the Timbers trouble winning on the road
I felt we just lacked experience on the road. I don’t think we lacked quality as individuals. It’s just getting the games under our belt, playing away from home, getting used to traveling [and] staying in hotels, not getting your home cooked meals. There is a lot of factors that come into it. I think now, as we have seen with performances at Philadelphia and New York this weekend, we’ve matured and if you look at the Philly game probably earlier in the season we would’ve lost that game. So, as I say, it is a learning process. It is a learning process as a group and for a lot of our young players individually.
Coming from Barcelona to score two goals in Major League Soccer, you would almost guarantee that Thierry Henry would probably score fifteen to twenty goals in his first year and he probably found it difficult. David Beckham, obviously had a lot of injuries in his first year, [Rafa Marquez], lots of world class players, you know they haven’t lost their ability, but that first year in Major League Soccer is always a very tough one to become acclimated to the different climates [and] the different time zones and the amount of travel that you’ve got to do. If it is hard for world class players it has got to be harder for young guys coming out of college and first year professional players.
On why he started Eric Alexander on Saturday
I just felt that away from home we looked a little bit wide open at times, committing too many guys forward. I just felt that bringing him in, trying to add a little to the midfield. We lost a little bit of our movement getting forward with Sal in the wide areas. It was difficult for Eric, you know, it was unfair to him because we never had a chance to get him on the practice field and work through things with him, show him a little bit of our shape and what we are looking for. It was just basically a game Wednesday, travel Thursday, and then a light practice Friday there was just no time to bleed him in. I actually had a meeting with him and just apologized that I threw him into the lion’s den a little bit. I think he was a little bit relieved that I wasn’t blaming him because I took him out at half-time.
On Eric Alexander’s future with the club
He’s a good soccer player. We’ll probably see the best of Eric next year and I am hoping that, as I say, he’s come from a good club that pass the ball well. He’s got lovely technique and good movement. He knows the game well so I am expecting that he’ll be here for a long time.
On why he took Eric Alexander out at half-time for Sal Zizzo
Just trying to get back into the game. You know, Sal has been great for me this year. He’s created a lot of problems and it was a decision that we made and if we tie the game or win the game then nobody bats an eyelid at it but because we start [Eric Alexander] and we take him out at half-time people tend to point fingers. Don’t point your fingers at him, point your fingers at me. On whether Eric Alexander will play again on Sunday There is a good chance he will play this weekend. A real good chance. So, especially with Kalif and [Jack Jewsbury] missing the space is up for grabs, so he’ll be definitely in contention.
On who he is buying lunch for
Brian Umony was the best forward this morning, I’m going to buy him some lunch and I believe it is David Horst is the one who is getting lunch for best defender.
Goal Keeper Troy Perkins
On the team’s outlook on the rest of the season
It’s not over. First of all, MLS soccer on the website says that we’re done. To be honest, they can kiss my you-know-what, but we’ve got four games. That’s twelve points for us and I don’t see why we can’t go get those twelve points. That’s really the thing that we’re worrying about now. We’re not worrying about what happened earlier in the season or what happened last week. It’s what’s happening in this next game on Sunday and knowing the fact that we’ve got to get three points and quiet a bunch of people down.
Every day is worth working for. When I’m fifty years old I can turn around and say I never gave a day away and that’s what I believe, that’s the way I train, and that’s the way I live.
On playing Vancouver this Sunday
There’s a lot of pride on the line. For us, obviously, it is the pride of getting close to the playoff possibility, for them it’s keeping us out of it. It would look really bad for us to make the playoffs or be really close and them to be at the bottom of the table. So of course they’re gunning for us. The first fifteen minutes are going to be pure adrenalin for them.
We’ve got to be men. We’ve got to stand there and take it and we’ve got to be ready to turn around and give it right back to them and really open up the game. Maybe we can get a couple early on and really put them on their heels. So, we’ve just got to be prepared, we’ve got to be tough.
On if the Timbers need to take all three points on Sunday
Yes and no. If we get a point then we have to get three points in the next one. But we need three points. Period. It is as simple as that. Three points swings [things] our way quite considerably. [If] we get three points here and a couple of results go against the other teams and we are right back where we were.