The Portland Timbers practiced today at their Beaverton training facility as the team prepares to take on the San Jose Earthquakes in San Jose this Sunday. The Timbers entered practice with a clear set of goals to work on before flying south this weekend.
After a brief warmup, the Timbers began practice with a series of passing drills, focusing on movement after the pass and quick wall passes to break through the defense. As is common, the drill started off with some sloppy play but quickly resolved into fast movements and sharp passes, prompting Caleb Porter to note, "that's how you break lines, guys. That's how you break lines."
The Timbers then broke off into some small sided games of keep away, one of which featured the team's defenders, including a guest appearance from Steven Evans who played left back during Monday's reserve match, and another with the forwards and midfielders. The defenders focused on playing their way out of trouble, and remaining calm under their pressure with one player switching out of their five on three setup at a time. The forwards and midfielders, however, played six on three and switched out of the center as a group, focusing on coordinating their pressure and keeping their defensive structure balanced.
The Timbers also played a larger version of keep away with seven on a side as well as three players who were always outlets for the possessing team. This version was played on a much larger portion of the pitch that required the defending team to pressure the ball intelligently as they tried to force a turnover.
Finally, the team wrapped things up with two drills that emphasized attacking the ball in the air, first playing a short field game that required them to get the ball outside and have it crossed in before they could score, then second having a scoring competition with balls fed in from the wings.
Injuries and Absences
Diego Valeri participated in today's practice from start to finish, which is a good sign for his potential return against San Jose this weekend. Valeri took a little bit longer than some of the other players to get into the swing of things today, but that is to be expected after a week off.
Michael Nanchoff missed practicing with the team today as he worked out indoors with an unspecified knock. Nanchoff did come outdoors briefly to observe practice and appeared to have a slight limp.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Sal Zizzo both warmed up with the team, but practiced separate form the main group along with Sebastian Rincon, Ryan Kawulok, and Mobi Fehr. Jean-Baptiste and Zizzo spent most of practice doing some jogging around the pitch as Zizzo recovers from knee surgery and Jean-Baptiste recovers from an adductor strain.
Brent Richards actually kicked a ball a couple of times today. Richards rode an exercise bike on the sidelines at training today and later went out on the pitch to do some juggling and lightly chip balls into the goal under the watchful eye of John Cone.
I am always surprised that more cars do not get damaged at practice, given that the players park right were over hit balls land.
Note To Self: Don't park behind the goal at training again. #smh instagram.com/p/YN6Q08v_dT/— Ben Zemanski (@zmnsk21) April 17, 2013
Zemanski and Will Johnson spent some time after practice concluded taking free kicks.
Dylan Tucker-Gangnes also stayed out on the pitch to train, practicing clearing balls that were lobbed into the box by Sean McAuley.
Diego Valeri's English is still improving at a rapid pace. I had a chance to hear him talk today and he sounds much more confident than when I last heard him speak in March.