Today the Portland Timbers held a full practice at Jeld-Wen field after a starter optional training on Monday. Practice focused on passing and movement off the ball with the players taking part in a series of keep away drills.
Midway through practice the Timbers split into groups and player 6v3, 5v3, and 4v3 games of keep away. The three man team of Darlington Nagbe, Kalif Alhassan, and Kris Boyd plus Franck Songo'o as their fourth was very impressive in their movement off the ball. The combinations that they put together to keep possession of the ball were tantalizing and will lend credence to the thought of Nagbe possibly getting the start up front with Kris Boyd against New England.
In his post-practice comments, Spencer indicated that Songo'o would see some time as a substitute against the Revolution on Saturday.
More notes, plus quotes from head coach John Spencer and defender Eric Brunner after the jump.
Elsewhere in practice, Songo'o and Nagbe continued to impress. During the large scale game of keep away that the Timbers finished practice with, Nagbe showed is usual calm on the ball but also startling acceleration. At one point Nagbe stole the ball away from Rodney Wallace in, literally, the blink of an eye. Songo'o also impressed with his defense, but rather than cutting in to take the ball away, like Nagbe, Franck seemed to be able to stick a foot out any time the ball came near him and gain possession. Songo'o showed good passing throughout practice as well, picking out his targets consistently, no matter the distance or opposition.
The injured Timbers working their way back to fitness all trained today with Sal Zizzo, Steve Purdy, and Songo'o all playing through the whole practice. Lovel Palmer, however, missed practice due to illness.
On the New England Revolution
They have got a lot of good players. Shalrie Joseph, [Benny Feilhaber], Kelyn Rowe all come to mind. The guys that can change games at the drop of a hat.
They've had two very difficult games on the road. I don't think that we should forget that. Going to San Jose, who are a very, very difficult team to play there, and Kansas City, one of the most powerful teams at home, and then they go a man down after twelve minutes, which I thought was one of the worst red cards I've ever seen in the history of MLS.
We're expecting a tough game.
On his expectations against New England
Obviously we want to try to go and try to win the game, just like we did in Dallas. The mentality is that we have got to start better than we have done the previous two games.
On New England playing at home for the first time this season
It is up to us to go out there and get after them from the first whistle and not give them a chance to settle. You can come back and be energized, playing in front of your home crowd, or you can be de-energized because you are worried about winning or losing the game.
We'll see what happens over the weekend come kickoff time. We'll see if they are up for it as much as us.
On playing away
I think it doesn't matter if we are going to New England or going to San Jose. I think that we feel confident. Even getting in to Dallas over the weekend, we felt that we are good enough to win the game.
We started the game in our eighteen yard box too much for my liking and when you do that you are going to cause problems. Eventually we gave up a goal that should have been cut off at its source early in the build up. Character-wise, to come back against a good team against Dallas on the road shows that we've made steps forward and improvements.
On the defense this season
I think there is room for improvement, always. I think that in the second half we became a better team when [Hanyer Mosquera] and [Eric Brunner] started dominating their striker. He couldn't hold the ball up and lay it off and link the midfield players up. Every ball that came up they were winning it at putting it straight back in there. I think that we were unlucky not to have won the game.
On Hanyer Mosquera
We'd seen him play a couple of times and we could see how dominant he was in the air. Obviously it was a big bummer for him, not getting the ITC clearance to play here and young [Andrew Jean-Baptiste] came in and did particularly well in that game. As I say, it was important to get [Mosquera] on the field. That's why we brought him here. We didn't bring him here to sit in the stands.
On the Timber's slow starts
I think that first and foremost you have got to go out and try to win the battle and try to possess the ball and win the individual battles. I felt that for the first 45 minutes we lost too many battles. We were trying to play the ball up front and it was going straight back at us.
Basically we did the same to them in the second half. We never let them get the ball under control in our half and as soon as we won it we played out of pressure and started attacking them again.
On the wind in Dallas
I never thought that the wind was a true factor during the game. You always judge that by your hair blowing everywhere. My hair was still in place and it wasn't blowing anywhere so I didn't think that it was anything to do with the wind. It was more to do with our performance.
-Presumably Spencer was talking about his beard here.
On bringing in Nagbe at halftime on Saturday
Every ball that went up there kept on coming straight back at us. We couldn't keep the ball and we couldn't get the midfield players to step and join in the attack. One thing about Darlington, he wasn't match fit and he's not match fit, just coming back from an ankle sprain. One thing about him is that with his back to the goal he holds the ball for you. If you could get a ball in to his feet, he would retain possession and then we could squeeze the game a little bit and get out and play in their half.
On Nagbe competing for minutes with Jorge Perlaza
I that is a problem every coach wants to have. You want all your forwards playing well and chomping at the bit to get on the field and score goals. I think it was great for his confidence.
On Franck Songo'o
He's going to join us on the trip to New England and hopefully get fifteen or twenty mintues. It is a nice thing to see when you look down the bench, a player of his quality.
He's starting to feel more confident in the injury. He feels that he's better now. He's ready to get his feet beneath him and get going again.
On the Timbers defense so far
I think that collectively as a team we know our roles, what we need to do. We need to pressure the ball sooner and be in good positions when we are defending. Organization-wise I think that we've improved a lot. It can get better, but I think we have definitely improved.
On having Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer in camp for preseason
They adjusted pretty well as soon as they came in. Nothings really changed. You come in and work hard every day and they are great team mates. They push everyone when we're in training.
On partnering with Jean-Baptiste and Mosquera
They know what they need to do when they come on. We all have confidence in whoever steps in at that position, that they are going to do the job, and both of them have done a great job since they came in. Hopefully we can continue that through the rest of the season.
On playing New England
I think that we have momentum coming in to the game. We got a good result and we want to go in there and try to get maximum points. It started with our training session today. It was tough, getting our legs going and setting the tone for how we want to play New England.
I think that if we come out like we did in the second half, putting them on their heels a little bit and keep ing the ball in their end and making them face their own goal, I think we have a shot. They are a good team, they have some skillful players, but we confidence in our side as well.
We definitely want to go in and maximize our points. They played down a man and got a red card pretty early so I am sure that they want to come out and change things a little bit. We're prepared for that but also we have our game plan of how we want to play and go out and work hard for ninety minutes.
They have some skillful players in their midfield and they haven't scored yet so I'm sure they're going to be chomping at the bit to get it in the back of the net. We've got to be turned on as a team throughout the field and on the back line.
On the wind in Dallas
It was difficult, but they had to play in it as well. It was difficult for them in the second half. You deal with it, you adjust a little bit, but I think we responded well going in to the second half.