The Portland Timbers were welcomed home to the Rose City by a slight drizzle and some short field, 9v9 scrimmaging. New signing Franck Songo'o was on display, looking dangerous as a left midfielder and sporting bright orange shoe laces that could probably be seen from space while Charles Renken got his first taste of training in Portland.
Of the players who have been on trial with the Timbers this preseason only Joe Bendick, Sebastian Rincon ("Seba" on the pitch), and Ryan Kowaluk remain. Missing to injury were Sal Zizzo, David Horst, and Eddie Johnson while Lovel Palmer was restricted to watching from the sideline as he recovers from a pulled hamstring sustained in California. Jake Gleeson was also missing due to an "immigration appointment" about which no more information was available.
Training started off with some small games of keep away, with the group featuring Renken, Rincon, Darlington Nagbe, and Kalif Alhassan looking more like a game of "keepy-uppy" much of the time.
After finishing stretching the team played 9v9 between the tops the penalty boxes, with each team having a fair mix of quality. Any players not taking part were pulled aside for individual fitness drills.
The games of 9v9 saw several players stand out. True to his preseason form so far, Songo'o combined well on the left wing, creating several opportunities for his teammates and cutting inside to take several shots. Songo'o also showed well when playing man-up defense, tackling effectively.
Renken exhibited his quick feet and ability to dribble at players from his position on the right side of midfield throughout the day. His slight build lent him to being pushed around a bit but at only 18 he has time to grow.
Brent Richards also impressed as he was perhaps the best forward at creating space to take a shot. Although he certainly needs time to improve his game overall, Richards ability to receive the ball and find room to shoot immediately could serve him well.
Update #2: Something that I forgot about... at the beginning of practice, the team huddled together and John Spencer said something. The team then cheered and, in turns, embraced Joe Bendick, Sebastion Rincon, Ryan Kowaluk, and Franck Songo'o.
Update #1: Quotes and more notes after the jump
Eric Alexander, serving as a right midfielder, had an all-action performance. He crossed well, took some of the most dangerous shots of the day, and played some good defense as well.
Of the two keepers on display today Bendick saw much more action than Troy Perkins. Bendick was forced into several acrobatic saves, which he made with aplomb. The two keepers were also the loudest players on the pitch by far, with the exception of an occasional shout from Bright Dike.
Several players also saw time at positions different from those they played last year. Ryan Kowaluk continued to be played as a right back, Darlington Nagbe spent most of his time playing centrally as either an attacking midfielder or withdrawn forward, Brent Richards lined up as a right winger toward the end of practice, and Mike Chabala played as a left midfielder early on.
On training camp in Carson, CA
It was good. It was a good camp for us, getting down there and getting good quality games in and getting guys some minutes. They get bored with playing against each other, so it was nice to see some different opposition.
On signing Franck Songo’o
Some of you guys have seen him training for the last couple of weeks and everyone and their dog has an opinion on him, telling us we should sign him. We knew we should sign him. That’s what we’ve been trying to do for the last two weeks. We see, probably, more than you guys and we realized that he was a good player.
On what Songo’o brings to the team
He impressed you guys, he impressed us even more. That’s why he is here.
It was commented that we should have signed him a couple weeks ago. I know, we’ve been trying. It isn’t just as simple as saying, "Here, there’s a piece of paper, sign that. Now you’re a part of the team."
We’re really, really happy to have him. We’ve got a couple other guys that will be getting announced that we’re pretty happy to sign too, not just Franck. The last ten days have been very productive and very enjoyable.
He can play on the left or the right. He very rarely gives the ball away. He’s going to be productive. He’s been good the last two or three games. I still think that match fitness-wise he is still a ways off. He’s only played three or four eleven on eleven games.
He’s a good young athlete with a good eye for the game. He can make the killer pass. We’re delighted to have him. It has been a long time coming. Gavin has worked extremely hard with the league to try to get the deal sorted.
On Eddie Johnson
What the doctors have told us is that he has to rest. How long he has to rest, we don’t know. Our main concern is Eddie, his life after football. He has a wife and a child on the way, so for me football is the last thing that I am thinking of. What I am thinking of right now is getting him healthy, getting rid of the symptoms of feeling sick, of feeling a little bit light headed still. It’s been a tough time for him.
Last year early in the season he had that Achilles problem and then was in a good bit of form and then got the concussion. So we’re really disappointed but our main concerns are not about him as a footballer, they’re about him as a human being, so we want to make sure that we do our due diligence and the doctors give him the okay before he ever gets cleared to play for us again.
On Lovel Palmer
Lovel has just got a tight hamstring. He made an overlapping run and felt that little bit of tightness. He doesn’t think he actually pulled his hamstring, so the first thought was that he’d be out for four to six weeks, but we are hoping to get him back before that.
On the goals for this part of the preseason
We’re just going to start to identify who we’re going to play in the first couple of games coming up, our team shape, etc. Still, the fitness levels are not where we want them to be. We still are at fifty five or sixty percent. That’s why these next three games are vital.
There’s been some great football being played but you don’t win an MLS cup in January or February. You win it in October or November. We’re not making a lot out of the results. We’re happy that we’ve played some good football. We’re happy that we’ve scored some goals and kept some clean sheets.
It’s good to get that confidence built, knowing that you’re competing against mixtures, first teams, reserve teams, and winning games. The culture that we try to create here is a winning culture regardless of where or who you play. When you put on the Timbers uniform, you are proud to wear it and you give it everything you’ve got.
On the influx of Colombians
We think of them the same as we think of any player. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, asian, green, or yellow I couldn’t care less. Sebastion Rincon has been with us, it is well noted that [Jose Adolfo Valencia] is going to be out for the year, and he has come in and done well. He’s only eighteen. He’s got a tremendous physique on him, good size for his age.
When [Sebastion Rincon] had the energy, he did some nice things. He’s one that, definitely, we’re looking to add to the group if possible, if we can get the deal sorted and hopefully he’ll be here for a number of years. I don’t care where you’re from or what you look like if you can play and the kid can certainly play.