The Timbers ran out for a short training session today as they recover from their 0-0 draw against the Houston Dynamo. After the team's initial warm-ups, practice was closed to the press.
Missing from today's practice were Jack Jewsbury and Futty Danso, both of whom picked up injuries in Houston. In his post-practice comments, John Spencer said that both Futty and Jewsbury would be game time decisions this Sunday against the Chicago Fire. Troy Perkins was also not on the pitch today despite not noticeably picking up a knock on Tuesday.
Warming up with the team was defender Steve Purdy, who missed the last two weeks due to a concussion. Purdy reportedly jogged with the team but worked on a separate fitness routine at the end of last week. Word is that Purdy will not be cleared to play until Monday at the earliest.
Also training today were Kalif Alhassan, who has been working his way back from a knee injury for several weeks now, and Jake Gleeson, who has been struggling with tightness of the IT band since early in the season. Both were still on the field after practice concluded and the press were let back on to the pitch.
Quotes from Lovel Palmer, Sal Zizzo, and John Spencer after the jump.
On the draw against Houston
I think it was a good point for us. We went there and we battled hard. We got another clean sheet, which is a positive for us, so I think it was a good point on the road.
On the team's improved defending
It's something that we've been working on for the last couple of game, you know. Great team defense, that's the best thing we can do. We're defending as a team now. We realize that it's not one or two guys or the four guys in the back that are labeled defenders they are the ones to defend. We defend as a group and we attack as a group and we realize how good team defense can help us.
On facing the Chicago Fire this weekend
Once we keep on playing good defense we'll definitly get something out of the game. Hopefully we can get it right in the attacking third, score a goal or two, and, as I said, if we play good defense we'll have a clean sheet so we'll definitly win the game. Just keep on doing what we are doing on defense and try to sneak one or two in their net.
On if the result against Houston was less satisfying given recent results
Yeah, definitly, but considering where we are coming from it is a stepping stone. In two games we got two points. In the past couple of weeks we probably would have lost those games in the dying minutes or given up a goal, but we didn't so it's a positive for us and something for us to keep building on.
On getting on the pitch for the first time this year
It felt good. It felt like I had my speed and I felt comfortable going at players. The humidity kind of got to you last ten minutes and we were kind of scrambling but I felt good overall.
On if he was unsure about his knee at any point during the game
No. It felt, at times, even better than last year. It felt nice and tight and it felt good running.
I'm going full throttle and hopefully I'll get some more minutes and try to work my way back.
On being unable to contribute while the team struggled
It's tough. For the first nine games of the season just ahving to watch and we struggled a little bit and I constantly was trying, and wanting, and pushing everyone to try and get back in quicker. Fortunately, it was the tenth game, I was able to get in and I look forward to keep on trying to make a difference.
On the Chicago Fire
They are a good team. We played them in our home opener and it was buzzing here and fortunately we beat them twice last year. They've got some playmakers and they're doing well this season, so we've just got to be ready to come out and play.
On fellow speedster Dominic Oduro
He's the definition of speed kills. He's very fast. He scored some great goals this year, scored some great goals last year and this year. You've just got to be ready for a player like that and always keep him in front of you.
On the team's current scoreless streak
I think the goals will come. Right now we're looking at the positives with three shutouts in four games. We're playing well and creating some chances, maybe not as many as we'd like, but I think the goals will start flowing in.
On Jack Jewsbury
He landed and twisted his pelvis, so he'll be a game time decision.
On the draw against the Dynamo
I thought we played well for long periods of the game. For the last ten minutes the humidity got to us a little bit and we conceeded a couple of chances. I think Troy Perkins came up big. It was probably his best game of the season, I thought. He came up big and made a couple of big saves but up until that period, seventy-eight minutes in, I think that we controlled the possession for a long period and played well.
On Troy Perkins
I think that was his best game, but that is what goalkeepers are paid to do. That's why we pay him good money: to come up big and he certainly did that against Houston.
On the Timbers lack of goals
I think that the attacking third right now is where we are breaking down. I think we need to get some quality service. I've said that, for the last couple of weeks, we need to get [Kris Boyd] better service. When you see him in training he gets his chances. In the finishing exercises he's probably the best finisher you'll ever see here in Portland, but there is no point in having the best finisher if you don't produce some quality service. We need to get him in the right areas with good service and if you do that then more times than not he is going to score goals.
On improving service to the forwards
It's the hardest part of the game, scoring goals, and the guys that do score goals they come at a premium. I think that defensively we look more solid, I think our hold-up play has been better. It's just in that attacking third, it's what we've spoken about for the last year, usually the attacking thing comes in the end. Right now we're just struggling to create good offense consistantly. We've got Sal back and hopefully we'll get Kalif back from injury soon; it gives us another dimension and gives us quality service into the box. That's the final nail for us, once we get that we'll prove we are a good team and we're capable of winning games in this league.
On Kris Boyd's frustration with not scoring
I think it's just only natural that when you're born to score goals and you don't get the quality service and you don't get the chances to score goals you're going to get frustrated. It's no different from the fans that pay money to see the games: they want to see wins and if we don't get wins they get frustrated. The coaches, the owner, everybody is in the same boat. If you don't get what you want in life, generally, you get frustrated. We need to get back to winning ways; it keeps everyone happy.
On if Boyd's runs have been part of the Timbers' scoring problems
I think it is a little bit of both. I think the quality has to be there as well. As a forward, I've been in that position myself when you go four or five or six games without scoring. It does get frustraiting but you can't let your head down and stop making the movements. I think he's got to keep making the runs and being committed to them and we'll eventually connect with some crosses. We've got too much quality in Songo'o, Sal, Kalif, our wide players not to get good service into the box. For me, I beleive in those guys that they have the quality to do that and I don't think we'll be too far away. If he keeps making the runs then we'll definitly get goals from him.
On the possibility of putting in another forward for Boyd
Boydie is going to play, plain and simple. We brought him here as a designated player. He's going to play in games. It's up to us to provide him with the service that is required for him to score goals and win games. End of story.
On talking to Boyd about his role in the team
I just spoke to him there. I speak to him regularly. I speak to all the players regularly. It is the key, you have to keep making your runs. The finger can be pointed at him if he stops running. If the ball comes in there and he doesn't get on the end of it then you can say, Boydie, you've got to make runs. For us, we've got to emphasize to our wide players that they've got to serve quality balls into the box, midfield players have got to create, and the forwards have got to finish.
On Sal Zizzo's return to the field
It was good to see him [out there]. He's played good against Houston a couple of times. He gets in on the end line there and cuts one back for [Darlington Nagbe], who probably took too many touches to get his shot off and it gets blocked. I actually thought it rebounded up and hit the defender's arm, something similar to what happened to us in Montreal a couple of weeks ago when we got the penalty against us, but I need to look at the video. It was nice to see him out on the field. He gives us some energy and a little bit of creativity.
On Futty Danso
He didn't actually pull his hamstring, he tweaked his hamstring. That's why we actually couldn't go the last ten minutes and we had to sit at the top of the eighteen yard box because we'd made our substitutions and we couldn't get him off the field. He carried on, the way Futty does, and got through it. There's another one: he's seen Dr. Greenleaf and he's had treatment and therapy today and he'll be another game time decision for us.
On Eric Brunner
I think he's fine. He's trained the last few days that we've been away and again this morning, so he's looking good.
On Mike Chabala playing on the right
We had to put him there, it wasn't by design. He is a right footed player. He's played most of his MLS career as a left back so I don't think he had any problems getting there and playing. We'll see what happens come game time, but we're hoping that Jack and Futty will be available for the game.
On the possibility of moving Lovel Palmer back into the back line
I think that since Lovel has went in there, maybe it is coincidence and maybe it's not, we've looked more solid. We've given up less goals. He sits in there and protects us pretty well. He's a good athlete and he's tough mentally and physically. I actually thought he had another good game [against Houston]. I think that he and [Diego Chara] are actually fitting in there as a nice partnership. I don't see us changing that in the future, not at the present moment in time, anyway.
On the possibility of replacing Palmer or Chara with a more attacking minded midfielder
Kalif's not fit and now you're talking about [Franck Songo'o] getting in there and he's never played in there in his career, so that's putting square pegs into round holes. For me then, that's just putting a blindfold on and throwing a dart at a dart board and hopefully it comes up trumps. We're at the professional level, we're not coaching Eastside youth soccer club where you can do what you want and that's youth soccer. At the professional level you've got play players at the position that they are accustomed to.
On Kalif Alhassan
I'm hoping [that he will be able to play Sunday]. He's training this week. He's been training the last few days, but you've got to remember that after the New England game he had the groin strain and a week or ten days of training and then he's missed a good month of training with this, so it's not just you come back and you start playing small sided games then all of a sudden you're playing in the first team. You've got a lot more ground to cover at a lot higher intensity than in practice, so we've got to get him physically fit again. He needs a small spring training camp to get himself ready again to play at the level that we need him to play at.
On Steve Purdy
We're just following protocol with the league. The league are very, very careful with concussions. We've seen in ourselves with Eddie Johnson closehand, so we've just got to do what the league tells us and if the doctors give us the all clear then he'll be ready to step in. He's just jogging right now, so he's not available.
We have to be very careful because you're not talking about wins or losses, you're talking about someone's life just now and after the game. As we've seen with Eddie Johnson, we've lost a good player. A twenty-seven year old which is tragic. We'll be very, very careful and if we need to take an extra week or ten days to make sure he's clear and there's not going to be any future problems then that is what we'll do.
On Brian Rowe's continued training with the team
We're just hoping that everybody forgets about him and we can just keep him and add him to the roster at some time. He's done well. He's an Oregon kid. He went to UCLA but this is his team, which is great because that's what we want: kids in Oregon loving the Portland Timbers. We'll keep him here for as long as we can.
He was up in LA and last week up to Seattle when they needed him, so hopefully he can train with us here for the whole season. If not and the league puts him somewhere else the there is always a place here for him to come back and train.
On preparring for the Chicago Fire
Obviously it is a quick turnaround. The guys just regened today. We'll get back on the field tomorrow and we'll see about some guys fitness-wise. We'll be ready for another tough game. There's no guarenteed wins in this league. Kansas City got off to a flying start, everybody saying they are the best team in the country and they look like it, then they come here and we get a luck break and end up winning the game. Then all of a sudden then go three games without winning, without scoring a goal. It's amazing how quick things can turn around for you. This is a league that is created for parity and at times you can definitly see why.
On if the upcoming games against Chicago and Vancouver are a chance to turn the season around
We don't take nothing for granted. I don't think that just because Vancouver are coming here we're going to beat them and I don't think that any team approach any game in Major League Soccer like that, and I don't think any coach does. They're all tough games. There's no guarantee that you should win. Manchester City spent $400 million over a three year period and were four minutes away from not winning the league and eventually they come through and win it, so you can spend any amount of money you want but it doesn't guarantee success.