Ahead of their clash with Real Salt Lake tomorrow, the Portland Timbers held a closed practice today. Starting with the usual warm-up jogging and one of John Spencer's seemingly infinite variations on keep away, the Timbers looked energized early on before practice was closed and the press were removed from the field.
Kalif Alhassan was a conspicuous absence after practicing yesterday. According to John Spencer, he will not be playing tomorrow thanks to groin strain picked up against the Revolution. Spencer went on to say that the strain had occurred in the first half, but Kalif decided to play through it.
Franck Songo'o and Sal Zizzo both practiced today and looked good in the limited window that the press were allowed to observe. Spencer also ruled out Zizzo for the game tomorrow due to a lack of match fitness, leaving Songo'o and Darlington Nagbe the likely choices to start with Eric Alexander on the wings.
More practice notes plus quotes from John Spencer, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, and Jorge Perlaza after the jump.
Spencer also confirmed Hanyer Mosquera's absence and speculated that he would miss several games due to the fractured cheekbone he suffered in New England.
David Horst's training with the team continued during warm-ups as he participated in both the running and keep away segments this morning. After getting another look at him, it is clear that his lateral movement is fairly limited and he is still a ways out. However, his lungs still work well and he could clearly be heard directing traffic during the game of keep away from in the stands above the yells of his teammates.
After practice, when the press was released back into the stadium, a number of the Timbers forwards and midfielders were working on their finishing with John Spencer. Unlike yesterday, Kris Boyd looked to be shooting spot on today.
A number of Timbers worked on free kicks after the finishing was concluded with Nagbe and Jewsbury taking several each. A number of other players got in on the action as well with Charles Renken taking several nicely curled shots around the wall of training dummies that had been set up for the occasion.
The freekicks featured a guest goaltender as Sebastian Rincon, like Songo'o yesterday, stepped in to block some shots away.
I am transcribing the quotes now and they will be up shortly. -Will
On Kalif Alhassan
He'll be out. He's got a groin strain.
He picked it up earlier in the week. He said he felt it in the first half of the game and tried to get through it so we gave him a could of days off then we'll take him back. He did the warm up and a little bit of finishing yesterday and just felt it so he is unavailable.
On Sal Zizzo
He only played twenty-five minutes, you know. I think that before we can look at him for the first team he has got to get a couple of ninety minute games with the reserves under his belt before we can even attempt to throw him in. The reserve level to first team level is a totally different game, so I think we need to be careful with him and don't push him too soon.
On his plans for who will start on the wing with Alhassan out
I know that I scan other team's websites to see if we can pick any clues for anything, so I don't think that Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake's manager) would be doing anything different.
On how he will motivate the team to get off to a batter start
Threaten them. (This was a joke.)
It's a mental thing. We're a good team. I think we are a good team when we play high tempo and we start the game well. I think we've showed that in the second half against Philly and against Dallas, what we are capable of doing. I think we showed it in little glimpses against New England on the road but it was too late and I think the guys are a little bit disappointed with the way that they have started the games to start the season so I am hoping that they will get a good reaction tomorrow.
On if any changes could be made to the Timbers preparations to help start better
I don't think so. Once you put the players on the field, as a coach you can only affect the game in little bits. I don't think you can affect the game in a huge swing. You can make personnel changes, you can make tactical changes, but at the end of the day, when the players step on the field they execute the game plan and I believe that we have got players who are good enough to do that.
I think I know how they are going to respond, but as I say, this is not a game that, like other games in this country, you can stop for time-outs and correct things, do this and do that. It is down to the players. This is a player's game. When the players step on the field, we can only give them as much information on Salt Lake as we can, their strengths and weaknesses, the it is down to them and they go on the field to try and execute.
On coming home after a road loss
All teams in Major League Soccer play better at home. I don't think that we are any different. I think it has been well documented that our problems have been on the road so I don't foresee any problems starting the games tomorrow. I realize that the west is a really good conference with a lot of good teams in it and we don't want to fall too far too early in the season and try to play catch up for the rest of the way. It is important that you win your home games to be successful in this league and you get some points on the road. Starting tomorrow we have a two game home swing now and it is important that we try to get maximum points from both games.
We are just looking forward to getting back and playing regardless of if it is at home or out there. It is nice that it is at home but when it is on the road you still have to pick yourself up and be ready to perform.
On Real Salt Lake's loss to Chivas
Robin Fraiser, who is the head coach of Chivas, was an assistant for many years in Salt Lake and sometimes it happens that he just knows the team inside and out. As I say, you get strange results in this league. I've said that it is not a league that you can call the results week in and week out. I think that was one of the results that you could look and say that it was a game they expected to win, not too different from ourself going to New England. I felt we should have won but we never picked up points, so they will be looking to get back on track, the same as us tomorrow.
On the team's outlook
I think they are just anxious to play. We all know that we are all disappointed with the result. Individually and collectively we didn't perform, plain and simple. Some guys were commenting that they feel that they let themselves down, which I agreed with. I think that you get two or three games a year like that, where you think that you should go out and win a game but you just don't perform for whatever reason and that was definitely one of them.
On Hanyer Mosquera
He's doing alright. Obviously he will be out. He won't play tomorrow. He'll be out for a couple of weeks, I would imagine, so it was a pretty bad one that he got. I don't think it helped that he was in the hospital for a good six hours waiting in the emergency room to get somebody to take a look at him. That doesn't happen when people get injured here. They get right into the hospital and we look after them right away, so that was probably a disappointing factor. It is nice to get him back home and obviously his family were worried about him, but he should be back in the next couple of weeks, we hope.
On his expectations for Andrew Jean-Baptiste
They are the same as for somebody who has played in the league for eight, ten, six, five, whatever-it-is years: play well.You think you're a good player, you play for the first team, you play for the reserves, you are expected to play well. I don't think that we should have any different expectations for a young player to a veteran guy. People who are coming to watch the game, who pay money to buy tickets, they expect the team to play well. For us, we could care less whether you are a first year or a fifth year guy, you are expected to do the job and do it to the best of your ability.
On the team's outlook
We were disappointed with our performance in New England but we have a chance here at home against a tough Salt Lake team to come out and make things right. Everyone is in the right mind-frame, no one is down. We're three games into the season and we have four points, so we are right in the thick of things and it is just a matter of coming out with the right mentality and setting the tone early.
On getting the game off to a good start
I think that everyone is aware of the starts that we have had recently. It is a matter of, we have said the right words, everyone said the right things, now it is just about going out and doing the right actions, because you can only say so much. It is just a matter of going and getting the job done.
From a communication standpoint, everyone on the field has got to be accountable and if that becomes a theme among this team than it becomes easier and everyone's job becomes a bit simpler. I think from that standpoint, everyone has realized that this week and we're looking to put our best foot forward.
On the pressure to get a result against Salt Lake
Every home game, when we come in, we expect to win here, as we do on the road. It is a tough team in Salt Lake and it will be a battle for ninety minutes, just like pretty much every MLS game is. Hopefully we can start the game and get the first goal for the first time this year and then hold them off.
I think that any time you play teams within your conference you want to have a good result because it is almost six point swings there. For us, we know that they have been a good team in the past and have been this year as well so it will be a good test for us. The games we had last year, we were pretty confident in the way we played against them and we just hope to do the same tomorrow.
On the tempo of the game
I think it will definitely be a high tempo. The turf is going to be wet, it is going to be raining, the atmosphere is going to be great so guys will be buzzing. They are a team that like to try to slow the game down and possess it as much as they can and hopefully we can disrupt them, kind of like we did last year.
Diego Chara (via translator)
On the team's start to the season
I think that we just need to be more focused and get better at concentration in the game. We know that we are a better team at home and that we need to do some work when we play away. I think that with more games we are going to get better.
On what he can do to improve the team
I think my experience, also internationally, is what I can contribute. I think it also depends on everybody's effort and hopefully it will go our way tomorrow.
On how playing at home affects the team
By adding points, recuperate some of that home field advantage, recuperate our position in the standings. Hopefully we will be able to come away with the win tomorrow and move ahead with the main goal that is just to make it to the playoffs.
On how the weather contributes to the Timbers' home field advantage
In terms of an advantage, I think that there is not too much of that because every team prepares very well. We are used to playing here with the rain. The field is going to be a little bit faster and that is probably going to be the advantage that we will have because we are used to playing on this field.
Jorge Perlaza (via translator)
On playing at home in front of the Timbers Army
We are very motivated and very happy to be back in our field and hopefully it is going to be a great game tomorrow and we want to be able to give these great fans the joy of winning.
On how his play fits with Songo'o and Boyd
I think that we compliment each other really well. They are great players and have been working hard. They have a lot of experience playing at other clubs and they have shown that in practice. Hopefully we can just compliment each other, like I said, and support the team and come up with wins, which is what we all want to do.
On his progress learning English
It is coming very well. We are progressing a lot and we are giving a good effort to learn as much as possible. We understand more now and hopefully we are going to be able to do these interviews in English soon.
-Before starting the interview, Perlaza joked (in Spanish) that he was already giving interviews in English. When his translator looked surprised he let us know that was only in class.