With big changes in the offing for the Portland Timbers' lineup in this weekend's match against the San Jose Earthquakes, the team got down to business during today's open practice session. Working at the Beaverton training facility, the Timbers put in a long session as they strive to get the team up and running without Will Johnson, whose broken leg will keep him out for the rest of the season, and Diego Valeri, who is suspended for Saturday's match due to yellow card accumulation.
After the usual warmup period, the Timbers broke into two groups: one consisting of the usual league starters and some of the bench players, while the other contained the defensive group that we have regularly seen in CONCACAF Champions League matches, the team's youngsters, and a pair of trialists.
The first team group started off with a half-field match that a defensive group facing attacks down either wing from a group of attacking players. In with the defenders were Diego Chara and Ben Zemanski, the anticipated central midfield pairing in Johnson's absence, while the attackers had Gaston Fernandez with them in place of Valeri.
In the 18 yard box at the other end of the pitch, the second group worked on a small field drill where two groups of four tried to win crosses sent into the box and score on goal.
Next the first group reabsorbed some of the more senior players from the second group and played a half-field, full-sided game that saw the ten men on either side try to work the ball around the congested pitch before shooting.
Finally, the team wrapped up with some set-piece defending at the far end of the pitch.
Trialists and Guest Players
The Timbers had two non-roster players on the pitch today (as well as the ever-present fourth keeper, Justin Luthy). According to some brief remarks by Caleb Porter after practice, the team are looking at some players for the still unofficial "Timbers 2" side that has been hinted at for some time now.
Porter told the press that the two players on hand are "young guys" and that one had been a part of the Chelsea academy system, while the other had been a part of Chivas de Guadalajara.
Injuries and Absences
Kalif Alhassan, who had missed the last two matches with a muscle strain, was back in practice today for the duration and looks to be healthy ahead of this weekend's match against San Jose.
Steve Zakuani was not out on the practice pitch today, the first open practice since Porter told the press that the Timbers would need to shut Zakuani down for the remainder of the season just over a week ago.
Johnson is expected to return to Portland today as he starts the recovery from his broken tibia and fibula. Initially Johnson was expected to fly home on Saturday, but after his surgery was successful earlier this week, he was cleared to return home earlier than expected.
Jake Gleeson and Steven Evans were back with the team today from their time on loan with Sacramento Republic FC.
Maximiliano Urruti spent some of today's drills on the sidelines as he switched out with Fanendo Adi and he spent most of that time shooting a ball on goal. He also had a moment to show off some skills while waiting to get back into the game, trapping a ball with his posterior after it bounced off the ground, otherwise known as a "butt-trap".
At one point, Alvas Powell worked a little too hard in practice, hustling to the end line to send in a cross before tripping and falling into the fence that surrounds the field, causing some noise but thankfully no injury.
Bryan Gallego had the measure of the trialist that he was matched up against in one of today's drills, consistently winning the ball or blocking the attempted cross.
Caleb Porter gave Darlington Nagbe a high-five after practice.