Today's training at Jeld-Wen Field was closed to the media as the Timbers made their final preparations for tomorrow's game in Commerce City, CO. The mood seemed upbeat as the team gets back into the thick of things following their first bye week of the season.
Team captain Will Johnson summed up the Timbers' mindset for the game,
We need to start picking up points along the way to make sure that we don't fall behind the pack too much. It is a great opportunity for us, one that we are excited for and one that the guys have prepared well for over the last two weeks.
Johnson also spoke about his experience playing at altitude, and why he is not worried about the effect it will have on tomorrow's game,
I think it is more of a mental thing. It's talked about. When we had a good team in Salt Lake everybody liked to say that the altitude was a big factor and we just believed that it was because we were a good team. Other teams, obviously road teams, made a lot about the altitude, but I think it is minimal. I don't see it being a factor tomorrow night.
I think this team is suited to play well on the road. It is a tough group of guys.
Caleb Porter also weighed in on the effects of altitude on tomorrow's game,
The best way to handle it when you can't be in two weeks early, which obviously is not realistic, is just to get in, play the game, and get out before your body even knows you're at altitude.
When asked today about the team's depth behind Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe, Porter listed off Jose Adolfo Valencia, Frederic Piquionne, and Kalif Alhassan as players that can step in and contribute. The inclusion of Albassan in this group is potentially telling and leads me to believe that the Timbers will play the same line up as we saw against Seattle, with Jack Jewsbury acting as a defensive buffer and pivot point for the team.
Against the Sounders Portland pushed the right side of their attack forward with Ben Zemanski supporting Diego Valeri and giving him room to cut inside as they looked to put pressure on less offensively minded left back Leo Gonzalez. At the same time Michael Harrington took a much less attacking posture as left back while working to contain the much more offensive minded DeAndre Yedlin.
It seems likely that the Timbers will employ a similar tactic against Colorado. According to Geoff's interview with UZ of SB Nation's Rapids blog Burgundy Wave, Brian Mullan, who spent most of his career in the midfield, will likely play on the right where he will look to get forward regularly, while on the left will be Chris Klute (who literally has no statistics listed on the Rapids website, although he apparently played 56 minutes in their last game), a more defensively minded player who will be more likely to stay at home rather than get forward.
My projected starting eleven:
Donovan Ricketts; Ben Zemanski, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Mikael Silvestre, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, Will Johnson; Diego Valeri, Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe
Trialists and Guest Players
Rauwshan McKenzie was still training with the team today. It seems likely that McKenzie will travel with the team to Colorado and partner with David Horst, who Porter confirmed would be on the bench tomorrow, in the center of the defense for the Timbers reserves.
Guest player Ema Boateng was no longer with the team today. Boateng was training with the team while on spring break from UC Santa Barbara.
David Meves is still training with the team.
Injuries and Absences
Darlington Nagbe and Mobi Fehr trained today after each picked up an ankle knock and spent time early this week recovering. According to Porter, Nagbe is a game time decision, although his full participation in recent practices bodes well for the Timbers.
Sal Zizzo, Bright Dike, and Brent Richards continued to miss practice as they recover from their respective knee surgeries.