The Portland Timbers held an unexpectedly open practice session at the team's Beaverton Training Facility today, giving the press a look at new signing Maximiliano Urruti, now wearing the #37, in some game-like situations. With a match against Chivas USA coming up on Saturday, the Timbers started to step up the intensity in today's training session as they look to stay in the hunt for the team's first playoff spot.
Training, as usual, started off with some warmup jogging an exercises before breaking to a basic passing drill to get the players moving. From there the real meat of the practice got started with Porter breaking the team into two groups of seven for a two touch possession drill with three additional players, Darlington Nagbe, Will Johnson, and Diego Chara, always on the possessing side (a 7 on 7 plus 3). After running the drill for several minutes, Porter added a twist, calling for David Meves to play in goal while the teams tried to amass eight passes before shooting on goal.
As the keeper was added to the mix in this drill, Porter took a moment to emphasize to the team that they need to "break lines, compress, and accelerate" during this drill as they look to find space to get off a shot.
After concluding the possession drill, the Timbers moved to a scrimmage with goals on the top of one eighteen year box at one end of the pitch and on the six at the other. This series of quick games was eight on eight plus the keepers. Although the goal was still to score, which gave three points, the teams also earned a point for every eight passes completed.
It was during this drill that we got the best look at Urruti and his skill set as he played at the top of the formation for his team. It was immediately clear that Urruti was used to the Timbers' style of play as he pressed early on defense and provided a link or a deft scoring touch on the attack.
Although Urruti had several moments of individual skill during practice, the move that stood out the most to me was when he received the ball with his chest at the top of the box (or its equivalent) while facing away from the goal, brought it down smoothly to his foot, then pivoted and played a well-weighted ball to Sal Zizzo who was running down the right hand side of the pitch. From there Zizzo immediately played in a beauty of a cross, reminiscent of what we saw several times from him to Bright Dike at the end of last season, which Rodney Wallace got a solid header to only to be stopped by the keeper. It was a good move and one that looked like it had come from a group of players that had been on the pitch together for more than two hours total.
Injuries and Absences
Donovan Ricketts was back in town with the Timbers today although his fellow Reggae Boyz, Alvas Powell and Ryan Johnson, were still with the Jamaican National Team for tonight's World Cup Qualifier. Ricketts was sent home early after being suspended from international play due to yellow card accumulation.
Diego Valeri once again did not train with the team, instead working on his recovery from an adductor strain indoors before coming outside to ride an exercise bike on the sidelines. After yesterday's practice, Caleb Porter confirmed that Valeri was not yet 100% and could come off of the bench like he did against Toronto FC last Saturday.
Mikael Silvestre was at the training facility for the second day in a row today, and was doing some jogging around the pitch while the rest of the team warmed up. After the team finished their warmups, Silvestre headed indoors to continue his rehab from knee surgery in April.
Jack Jewsbury and Frederic Piquionne both warmed up with the team today. After the warmups, however, Piquionne went indoors for his workout, while Jewsbury worked out separate from the rest of the team under the direction of John Cone.
On the sidelines of practice today the Timbers had a small crowd watching the proceedings. Brent Richards, Steven Evans, and Ryan Miller were all on hand today, taking in the session from the bleachers. This is the first sighting of Miller at the training facility since the announcement that he would miss the rest of the season thanks to stress fracture in his leg. The Timbers confirmed that Miller has not yet had surgery to implant a metal rod into his leg.
Although not necessarily injury related, both Darlington Nagbe and Pa Modou Kah left training breifly today to go indoors. Kah did not participate in the whole 8 on 8 scrimmage, while Nagbe was indoors for aproximately the second half of the scrimmage.
I couldn't pick out who it was, but at one point during the possession drills somebody was just shouting "Press! Press! Press! Press! Press!" I think they wanted to emphasize winning the ball back on defense in that one.
David Horst and Futty Danso were part of a three man back line in the 8 on 8 scrimmages and looked very comfortable with each other despite Horst's long absence. The two played together for 45' in Sunday's reserve league match.
Horst played mostly on the left side of the field in the scrimmage and was not shy about getting forward with the ball. He even had a few nice 1-2 passes and one very nice ball fed into the box that Nagbe (I think) scored off of.
More on Urruti
More than any of the Timbers' other strikers, Urruti seems like he wants to stay central and distribute from there, rather than drifting wide like Jose Adolfo Valencia, Johnson, and Piquionne all tend to do.
Urruti also looked like he was quite adept at staying on the back shoulder of his man and making a well timed run in behind the defense, although he was certainly helped by the three man back line in use during the scrimmage.