The Portland Timbers held an open practice today at Jeld-Wen Field after Saturday's 1-0 loss to Chivas USA. Practice was active with the team splitting off into three groups doing fitness work and two short fielded games. The first half of practice was run by Gavin Wilkinson while Sean McAuley, the team's new assistant coach, took the second half.
The big news today surrounding the Timbers today was last night's arrest of Jose Adolfo Valencia by the Beaverton Police. Word around practice was that Valencia's neighbors called the police after they heard his wife shouting at him. Valencia was reportedly distraught after getting some bad news from Colombia and his wife was trying to calm him down. During practice, team owner Merritt Paulson said that he believed all the charges would be dropped. Gavin Wilkinson was unwilling to go into specifics of the incident but he did confirm that the language barrier and cultural differences played a part in Valencia's arrest in his post-training comments. Valencia was released this morning.
Missing from practice today was Eric Brunner who had been cleared to play after two months of missing time due to a concussion. According to Wilkinson, Brunner picked up a knock to his knee as he tries to get back to fitness and was working out indoors as the team tries to get him back in shape.
Cam Vickers, who played on the wing for the Timbers U23s this season, practiced with the team today. Vickers showed off his speed and attacking chops today, lining up as an attacking midfielder in most of today's drills. As he has already graduated college, Vickers would be available for the Timbers to sign as a discovery claim rather than going through the draft, should the Timbers want to sign him.
More training notes, plus quotes from Gavin Wilkinson after the jump.
- Rodney Wallace impressed me in some of the short field games the team was playing today. He really looked like a guy who wants some minutes. Additionally, he was pretty consistently playing in an attacking role so we might just see him given another shot on the left wing.
- Cam Vickers had one amazing rip from around twenty five yards out in the post practice finishing drills being run by McAuley. He reminds me of Sal Zizzo (in a good way), but smaller and with a better shot.
- Kalif Alhassan was pulling out everything in his bag of tricks in practice, making a couple players look downright foolish when they tried to tackle the ball away from him. Kalif also showed off some pretty passes, similar to what he showed in Sunday's reserve game when he lined up as a CAM.
- Steven Smith narrowly avoided getting Dike'd today. Bright Dike went to tackle the ball away from Smith which resulted in a yell and Smith doing a flip. Luckily, Smith was alright and got right back up.
- Sebastian Rincon played out wide on the left for much of the finishing drills at the end of the day and scored some beautiful goals from out there. McAuley emphasized close in one two passes and each time Seba received the two part of that equation he curled one in that neither Troy Perkins nor Joe Bendik could stop.
- UPDATE: As Gavin mentioned in his post practice quotes, the players out doing finishing drills after practice were the younger players. Pretty much anyone 23 or younger was out there, plus Dike (25) and Troy Perkins.
On Jose Adolfo Valencia's arrest
I think there has been a lot of people jumping to conclusions very quickly. I think that what we need to do is let this play out and see what all the factors are that come out and how they get presented. It is a headline right now but I think that people are jumping to conclusions without knowing the full story.
I am not going to add to that because that is just me reinforcing those who speculate.
On the language barrier and how that may have affected the situation
There was definitely a language barrier. I talked with Jose this morning and we will wait and see how this plays out and we will get more information. We have been in touch with the authorities, we have been in touch with Jose Valencia. There is definitely a language barrier, without question.
Here is a kid that has come here, he is only twenty years of age, he dealt with a devastating injury, and also in the same day he was dealing with some rough news from home and people jump to conclusions and they are very wrong. I think once all the information comes out you will see that the language barrier presented some huge hurdles.
On how Valencia is feeling today
He feels like he let the club down. We were made aware of this last night when it happened and we were in contact with another player that lives in the apartments who watched the whole process and could see that [Valencia] was obviously very upset.
He is a twenty year old kid. He is not a bad person. He has gone through a rough year, but that doesn't excuse him from anything that he has done wrong, if he has done anything wrong. He is obviously devastated. The club has put a lot of time and effort into him as a person and as a player and he feels that he has let the club down at the moment and that is the right response from him.
On if the club expects the charges to be dropped
We have to see what the charges are first. We are in touch with the authorities and we will work with the authorities and I think we will just have to see what level this is at and with all the information once it is made available to take action if it is appropriate.
On if Valencia is facing disciplinary action from the team
I am not sure what we would be disciplining him for. Until we come to a conclusion of exactly what he was in the wrongdoing for. Jose Valencia, everyone is held accountable, but there is a big language barrier and there is a cultural barrier as well form where he is coming from in Colombia. The police here get treated with a lot more respect, and rightfully so. For him it definitely a cultural thing.
On Sean McAuley's increased involvement in running practice
I think all the coaches are [getting more involved in running practice]. I took the first forty five minutes and then Sean takes over. I think that what we are trying to do is, he is going to be here for a while, make sure that the players are going to be comfortable with him, make sure that they receive information well from several different sources and that we all deliver the same message. He has had more involvement, [Amos Magee] has had a lot of involvement, as has [Cameron Knowles]. In my position I am trying to empower them to do more and more.
On what McAuley brings to the team
It is a fresh opinion. It is a fresh voice. He has come in, looked at our team, watched pretty much every game that we've played this year. We've sat down, we've shared thoughts, shared opinions, and started to structure things in a clear path to move forward. I think that some of that we had already started to work on and it is just a new opinion, it is a fresh voice and the players appreciate that because quite often I am coming into a system where the coaches have already been here, we are trying to change things for the better, and then we get another voice that is coming in so now there is two new voices and now we can slowly start to change the direction and the pathway. I think the players are very appreciative of some of the things that we have changed.
The young players will notice they are going to start to work a little bit more. I think we can get more out of our young players but we need to invest the time and energy into them, so their schedule is very different from the senior players in the squad and rightfully so. The young players were in at 8 am this morning and we'll let them go in an hour or and hour and a half. It is not a punishment. It is that we want them to improve, we want them to be good players so we give them all the tools necessary.
On if he makes the final decisions around the team
I'm the general manager still.
It is a collaborative effort, so what I am trying to do is get a collaborative group going in the same direction. It's better than one or two people. We've included them. We've had a lot more meetings about the direction and the quality of training, the process in the training sessions itself, and what we are trying to achieve in each training session. We are getting some lively performances in training.
On why team is having trouble putting their chances away
(Joking) Great question. It really is a phenomenal question. Does anybody here have the answer?
I think you will have days where that goes in the back of the net and you will have other days that it just doesn't. I think with the chances we had, maybe I am a little bit delusional, but would could have been winning two or three to zero at half-time and then the game is dead and buried. I think that this game is all bout finishing your chances and putting the ball in the back of the net.
I think you would agree that some of the quality of football that we played, some of the chances that we created, the energy that the players played with, and the overall performance of the team and the individuals was pretty good. I still think we could do a lot of things a lot better. We should create better chances, our movement around the goal could still be a little bit better, but if you look at the stats we got into their defensive third eighty times, we made fifty entries into their penalty box, we had twenty shots and we had fifteen crosses, we had eleven corners. It was a fairly one sided game and I think you could all see that.
We should have put our chances away and we will learn from it and we will move forward.
On what he is looking for from the team against Dallas
Consistency. I think that if you look at the last four games, if you look at LA there were some positives at home: the goals that we scored, the chances that we created, we had some mental errors that cost us dearly. In Chivas I think that the quality of the game, taking into account our performances on the road, was an improvement as was the quality of the performance and possession in the second half, the chances that we created in that Chivas game. Then we come home and the quality, we are just not putting the ball away and we are not finishing our chances.
Dallas we will put in a seperate bucket altogether. That was just a disgrace in every way.
It is a revenge match. We have to look to go out and we have got to take the game to Dallas. At the moment we are playing for a lot of pride and we need to start to collect some wins.
On if the team needs to get angry
Not get angry but, I would love to see them play with more emotion. I would love to see more controlled emotion. We always say control the controllables, but more passion, more desire, and more emotion. Again, I go back to: they are quality people and sometimes in young players they need to learn the value of that and hopefully this stretch of what we've gone though will make them a little bit tougher and they can start to understand what this game means to everybody involved. It means a hell of a lot to me, it means a hell of a lot to the fans, and I know it means a hell of a lot them, they just have a different way of showing it, maybe. I am sure we will get there and it is up to us to add a few pieces that give us those characteristics.
On Eric Brunner
On the concussion he is absolutely fine. He took a little knock to his knee and we are just being very cautious with Eric: we have wrapped him in cotton wool. He would be a valuable piece for us right now to bring back and we would like to get him fit and healthy but we need to make sure that when he is coming back he has got no little niggles that are going to turn into big problems.