The Portland Timbers held their first practice after the bloodbath in Colorado at Jeld-Wen field this morning. With a match coming up tomorrow against league-leading San Jose, today's closed session was a strange mix of regen and game prep.
Kalif Alhassan took part in his first practice since pulling a hamstring against Seattle last week. During warm ups and some brief games of keep away, Kalif looked nimble and his movement was good but he still did not look one hundred percent. After practice assistant coach Amos Magee spoke to the press in John Spencer's place and said that Kalif could be a game time decision.
Notably absent was Rodney Wallace, who saw his first game time on Saturday since spraining his ankle while with Costa Rica over the MLS break. Magee said, during his post practice comments, that Wallace did not practice as a precaution and was doing his own workout.
Eric Brunner was once again not at practice as he continues his long recovery from the concussion he suffered against Vancouver. He has been looking better recently, according to Magee, but the team is still following the league's concussion protocol and he has yet to be cleared.
More practice notes plus quotes from Amos Magee and Jack Jewsbury after the jump.
After the Timbers completed their warm ups most of the players that started the game (the unsurprising exception being Franck Songo'o) against the Rapids broke off from the rest of the team to continue their recovery day and prepare for tomorrow. Jack Jewsbury, David Horst, Futty Danso, Diego Chara, and Mike Fucito all stayed outside to do some stretching as practice was closed.
With a large part of the team not able to participate in the remainder of practice, the Timbers had several standouts from the U23s in practice today. Midfielders Steven Evans and Andrew Ribiero as well as forwards Mark Sherrod and Erik Hurtado were in attendance. Evans and Hurtado are both potential homegrown players (check out grogancp's excellent FanPosts on the subject) while Sherrod and Ribiero both could wind up as potential Generation adidas signings for MLS.
- During the keep away drills after warm ups were completed Sebastian Rincon has a very slick back heel pass that totally threw off the defenders that were closing him down.
- Alhassan and Eric Alexander both showed off some tricks in the games of keep away, with some deft flicks of the ball.
- After practice had concluded and the press were let back out to observe, several players were shooting on the near goal. Andrew Jean-Baptiste had several nicely placed shots, including one penalty kick buried into the upper right hand corner. Joe Bendik also took a couple of shots, most of which were nicely on target but one of which was blocked by Danny Mwanga, much to his surprise, right as he turned around.
- After most of the players had headed inside, Alexander and Bendik were attempting to bank a ball into a garbage can off the side of the field. Alexander knocked on of the rim of the can on his first try and got it in on his second. Bendik, despite coming very close from further away, was not quite able to get one to fall. Heading inside after talking to the press, Jewsbury got in on the action, chipping a ball as he left the pitch, but his aim was a little off.
On what the team has been doing since the loss to Colorado
We've been licking our wounds a little bit. That was not a great performance by any stretch of the imagination in Colorado. I feel that we, as a staff and certainly all the way through the team feel, that we let ourselves down with an opportunity to build on some really positive momentum.
We took a big step forward and then a big step back. I think that we are disappointed in that and what we can do now is come back and see if we can get on the right foot and see if we can take that into the weekend, but first thing's first, we have got to play very well to beat San Jose. They are the top team in the league and right now for the Supporters Shield right now so it will be no easy task.
We certainly feed off the energy here and seem to do well here and we have got to do that again tomorrow night.
On his reaction to the team's performance on Saturday
I was pretty surprised. It was a clunker, no doubt about it. We have got to figure it out as a group, change things around, how we can get better performances on the road because there is no mistaking that we have yet to win a game on the road and it seems like it is a little bit of a bogey for us.
That is something that we will figure out on Wednesday.
On how the altitude affected the outcome
It is tough to say. We have been putting in a lot of work on our fitness, we believe that we can play at altitude, and we certainly did last year in Salt Lake. We are going to have to do it again on Saturday night, so if it is altitude it is a mental thing and I would like to think that at this point we are beyond that.
On dealing with San Jose's forwards
They do have some weapons. They are playing with a lot of self belief. The game seems to never be out of their hands and they sort of feed off of that.
The best thing that we can do is play well form the opening whistle and if we do that we feel like we will be in control of the game. We got over something, which was giving away goals late on in a tough battle against Seattle, so I think that the confidence is there that we can ride out games here and we saw the same evolution last year where we took it late on a couple of times and we finally got over that hump.
On trying to find a consistent starting eleven with all the injuries and suspensions that the Timbers have had
It is tough. You would like consistency. I think you've seen that consistency wins in this league and substitute experience as well, but experienced guys tend to avoid suspension when possible, tend to keep themselves healthy, and you get a nice rhythm going forward. We haven't had that but we have had enough opportunity to start the same starting eleven but for [Sal Zizzo] and Kalif that we did against Seattle. There ought to have been some consistency to that and now, with Diego suspended we have got to go back to the drawing board a little bit.
On missing Diego Chara
He has been a fantastic player, certainly over the last couple [games]. I would say over the last month or month and a half of the season he has been arguably our best player, so we have got to figure out a way to replace his energy and, as a staff, we are looking at different options.
On if Kalif Alhassan will be available to play tomorrow
I think he is still a game time decision depending on how his fitness is.
On Eric Brunner
I think he is coming along.
I know I saw him today and he actually had a smile on his face and he didn't seem to be spinning and swooning and keeling over, so that is a good sign. I think we are still a little ways away with the strict protocol but I think he has made improvement.
On Rodney Wallace
He is a quick healer and the medical staff has done a great job with him. He, with the travel, with the playing, probably with the altitude, everything, he was pretty sore today so as a precautionary measure we had him sit out.
Whether or not he is available for tomorrow we will see how it settles out.
On Franck Songo'o's performance so far this season
You forget because he has played a lot, he is twenty four. He has bounced around a little bit too and coming off when he was getting to match fitness he had the MCL sprain, then going back to get his visa, we have had him in fits and spurts. We have got to get him consistent, but he is like the rest of our team; he hasn't been consistent, the rest of our team hasn't been consistent either. We hope that it is going to start to come and we are going to start to get consistent performances throughout the squad, but he is indicative of what has been going on.
On if Songo'o is in the doghouse
No. No, he's not.
On the lack of a consistent line up
That is the reality of it. You are going to have guys, especially at this point of the season, start to pick up yellow card suspensions. Obviously in the back four, and our center backs especially, it seems like as one guy gets healthy another guy goes down, but it is what it is and I think that is why you have a deep roster, so that when guys go down other guys step up.
On the team's health and fitness after the Colorado game
I that everybody today was, for the guys who played the majority of the minutes, a lighter day as you would expect with a game coming up tomorrow. I think that Diego, with the yellow card accumulation, will be out and we will deal with that. Obviously he is a key player but we have got other guys like [Lovel Palmer] playing that role or myself. It will be figured out and we expect everybody that is out there to put everything in and for us to get a huge three points against a tough team.
On if he expects to play in the midfield tomorrow
I haven't talked to coach yet. I have played at right back for the last few games and I know that Lovel is biting at the bit to get back out there so this maybe gives him the opportunity.
On beating Seattle then losing to Colorado
Those are huge ups and downs. With the high coming off of Seattle with the home win and the first time we beat them in the rivalry game then going to Colorado and not putting in the performance that we wanted, it is disappointing but at the end of the day we have got to move on because it is a quick turnaround here against San Jose.
On if the Altitude was a factor against the Rapids
Every team that goes in there is going to face the same thing. You might hit that wall with the altitude in the first fifteen minutes but the times I have played there once you kind of break through that and get your second breath it is smooth sailing. We are not using any excuses form the heat, the humidity, whatever it may be. San Jose went in there two weeks before and got a win late in the game.
The performance wasn't good enough and we know that. Now it is time to move on.
Mike Chabala also spoke with the press after practice, but I have to get to work and that guy can talk pretty fast, so I will try to get the quotes from him up either later tonight or tomorrow morning.