Today the Timbers held their first practice, a closed one, since it was announced that John Spencer was out as head coach. Gavin Wilkinson ran the proceedings at the team's Beaverton training facility as the team continued to adjust to this big change. Although the initial warm ups, run by John Ireland, were the same, Wilkinson favored passing drills rather than games of keep away before practice was closed.
Today's training session saw the Timbers practice roster in flux. Bright Dike, freshly returned from his loan to the LA Blues, trained with the team for the first time since being sent out before the MLS break. Dike looked fit and ready to go, leading the pack in warm ups and exhibiting his outstanding shooting power in finishing drills after practice was reopened.
Dike was not the only returning Timbers player, as Eric Brunner participated in his first practice with the team since going out with a concussion against Vancouver back in May. Brunner looked a step behind in the running and was sent inside before the end of practice but simply seeing him on the pitch is encouraging.
A number of Timbers players were missing from training today as well with Diego Chara being perhaps the most surprising of those. In his after practice comments, Wilkinson told the press that Chara was given the day off to rest given the amount of work he puts in each game while also saying that Chara's absence was not a reward for his suspension.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste was another surprising omission from the Timbers practice line up, but he was confirmed by Wilkinson to be heading to the LA Blues on loan. Wilkinson went on to say that, like Dike, AJB was in need of game experience.
More Timbers training notes plus quotes from Gavin Wilkinson after the jump.
Out injured from practice were Franck Songo'o, Rodney Wallace, Chris Taylor, and Brent Richards. Songo'o and Wallace have been out for the last week, while Taylor and Richards have both developed injuries more recently. According to a facebook post, Taylor has gone to Colorado to undergo hip surgery. Richards picked up a knock during Monday's regen session.
Jake Gleeson was also not at practice as his is gone for the next few weeks with the New Zealand Olympic Soccer Team.
Trialist Salim Arrache continued training with the team today.
On the team's attitude at today's training
It is quite good it think. I think the players are focused on the weekend. We've got a big game coming up this weekend and they want to apply themselves, so I am very happy.
I thought they were lively, I though they worked hard. Once they cross that white line and once they get on the field they have a job to do and they are good professionals. I don't think you've every heard us say that we don't have a great bunch of guys.
We do have a good bunch of players, a good group of professionals, and they worked hard today. They applied themselves and it is important because we do have a big game coming up and there is a lot to get through. We've thrown in a couple more training sessions this week just to cover certain things.
On what the teams needs to cover
You're looking at video sessions, you're looking at set-pieces, you're looking at walk throughs, so it is basically comprehension and understanding.
On what he told the team about the firing of John Spencer
We are all partly responsible, we are all accountable, and there is one way to react and that is to react in a positive fashion, come out and work a little bit harder, and apply ourselves a little bit more, and look to get a result.
The situation that has happened is not an easy one to deal with for anybody and the players have a tremendous amount of respect for John and like John, as did I, and this is a situation where we are still representing the organization and we are all still professionals and we still have a job to do.
On what changes he will make as head coach
Maybe we are going to change one or two things, but that is relative to the opponent. John did that on a regular basis. You may see a small modification but nothing major. No major overhaul.
I think that everything has opened up. We have also got to look at decisions that will affect the mentality of the team. There has been a lot of change and how much more change can they cope with? There may be some changes this week, there may be some more changes in the next couple of weeks. I'm not looking to come in and do everything overnight. I think that could be very disruptive and at the moment we have a game just around the corner and it is important to get the guys focused on that.
That includes the captaincy at the moment.
On if Jack Jewsbury is still the captain
I foresee that as being the case. We have also got a couple of other players that I need to start to eleveate in this team. You have got a Troy Perkins, who I think could be a good leader for this team. Basically it depends on how we do and how we come through this weekend, but what I am looking to do is to make as little change as possible going into this weekend.
It doesn't need a major overhaul, it just needs some tweaking in my opinion, and with Jack he has done a good job as captain. I'm not saying that he is going to remain the captain for the remainder of my time as the coach. It is something that we need to review.
On the biggest challenges in facing the LA Galaxy this weekend
Keeping the payers focused, keeping them motived and look ahead, and, honestly, getting them all to believe in the direction. I think that the direction that we were going in is one that was working for us at home and it is a matter of players believing in themselves, believing in the system, believing in the staff, believing in the people around them in general in the organization. As long as we come out with the same attitude that we have had in the past at home I think we will do well.
On Bright Dike's return from loan
It is good to have Bright back. He is a very likable person and with that we have also loaned out Andrew Jean Baptiste, so we have loaned out Andrew and we have brought Bright back in. I think the loan move has gone quite well. He has scored a lot of goals, he's got a lot of playing time, and he's come back in good shape, so not it is just a matter of how he does in this environment.
There is no doubt that can score goals in division two, now can he be effective at this level? We will bring him back in, we will reevaluate, and see how he is going. I think that the loan move is a positive move for young players looking to get playing time.
On Andrew Jean-Baptiste' loan
We've loaned him to the same team that Bright just came from, the LA Blues, and that is a young player with a lot of potential. He needs developing; it is important to get him playing time. I don't think that we have enough reserve games to develop him as a player. It is important that he can get out there, get into a competitive environment, and also learn his trade.
Here he was doing well. He showed glimpses but we are quite deep in that position, I believe, and a loan move will work out well for him.
On if it was strange to be back coaching
It was strange, to be honest. I take a couple of PDL sessions so I've still coached a little bit with one of the other teams that we have i the club, but it was definitely strange. It is a big change for me and it is probably a change for the players as well and only time will tell how that goes.
On his connection with the players
I have a relationship with all the players and I am responsible for bringing all the players on board and into the squad. We have a healthy relationship as a complete staff and it is very collaborative. That doesn't mean to say that I was involved in coaching prior to this, but in signing players and bringing players on board. There is a healthy level of respect from the players for the whole organization and vice versa, so I don't hitnk it has been difficult to learn my personality.
That is just part of the challenge when you bring in a new coach. Most of them know my personality. They know me, they can relate to me, they understand where I am coming from, and if they have a problem I think they feel comfortable coming to see me as well.
On balancing his role as general manager with his role as interim head coach
With a very understanding family and a lot of long days.
I was in the office until nine o'clock last night. We've already had a couple of coaching candidates that we have spoken to, so the search has started. My focus is on this team and on LA, but when it is late at night and you have a bit of spare time it is good to look at resumes, speak to agents, speak to coaches, and just see. We need to develop a longer list and then we need to cut that down, so I am still in the process of developing that.
On his relationship with the team's coaches
I think with coaches they are very loyal to the head coach and that is their priority and it is the way that coaching works around the world, I believe. It is going to be a change for them. I have a very healthy relationship with [Amos Magee], with [Cameron Knowles], and with Mike Toshack.
I have coached against Mike, when I was coaching, when he was with Vancouver for many years as well. I have known Tosh for ten or eleven years. I have known Cameron for a long time as well: I signed Cameron, I brought him into the organization initially and Amos signed him as a coach.
On the team's injured players
Eric Brunner trained today and we pulled him out at the end of training just as he is basically getting his fitness levels back up and he had tight hamstrings, but apart from that we are fairly healthy. Brent Richards missed training today with a knock on the ankle.
On how long Fanck Songo'o will be out
The initial timeline was three to four weeks bu we are hoping to have him back a little bit quicker, but he is also a player that we don't want to force back in. He had a similar injury at the start of the year and it took a little bit longer to recover. It is important that we bring him back and we bring him back healthy.
We started to see what Franck Songo'o can bring in the game that he got injured in and the game before that at home, so he is an important piece to what we are doing and we need him back.
On Diego Chara's status
Diego Chara is suspended for this weekend and Diego, he is one of the hardest working players, he puts a lot of miles on those legs and I thought it was important that he take a day away and just relax. We have a day off tomorrow as a group and this was a chance for him to spend some time with his family. He wasn't going to feature into what we were doing. Today what we did was a lot about systems and formations and I think he deserved a day off. Its not a reward for getting a red card, it is just basically looking at maintaining him and his body moving forward.
I will try to put up some quotes from Kris Boyd or Jack Jewsbury if I have time later today.