Following hot on the heels of their 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes last night, the Portland Timbers were back on the training pitch today, keeping themselves sharp for their last long break of the season.
Today's open session saw the starters from the match against the Quakes working out indoors as they went through a post-game recovery period. The lone starter to make an appearance on the pitch was Fanendo Adi, who spent some time jogging laps around the periphery of the pitch early on during practice, then watched the remainder of the session from the sidelines.
The players on the field, yesterday's substitutes and players not in the 18, moved through a series of ball handling drills to start off practice, first in a drill that had them carrying the ball back and forth, using other players as a combination of 1-2 passing partners and traffic cones, then in a series of drills centering about controlling and passing the ball in the air.
The highlight of the early drills was a Sean McAuley-ism shouted out at the start of the final aerial drill, as players were taking a touch to juggle the ball in the air with one foot before passing it on the volley with the other. As the Timbers started the drill, McAuley yelled out, "It's just a bag of wind, surrounded by leather!"
From there the Timbers moved on to a series of possession drills, breaking into groups of six for four on two games of keep away that gradually increased in size with each iteration. After a free-form first round, Caleb Porter assigned the four to stay on the sidelines of the area in which they were passing, moving into space laterally, rather than roaming wherever they chose. The third round saw the Timbers widen the areas for the four on two games, with Porter cautioning, "sometimes more space means more problems."
The Timbers wrapped up their series of possession drills with a more intricate version of four on two that saw the four in question try to complete a certain amount of passes (I missed the exact number) before passing the ball to another group of four.
Finally, the Timbers wrapped up their training session with a seven on seven short field game that included McAuley and Cameron Knowles to round out the numbers.
Injuries and Absences
Pa Modou Kah was on the sidelines of today's practice session, working with a trainer on a series of passing and light agility drills before heading to the sidelines for the remainder of practice.
Norberto Paparatto is fine despite the cut he suffered on his head in last night's game, Porter confirmed.
Jake Gleeson made some big saves in the day's seven on seven match, coming out to snuff out plays regularly and sliding in to one on one situations without fear, which is always good to see from a keeper that has seeming spent much of the last two years injured.
Maximiliano Urruti took a little bit to get in his groove today, but by the end of practice he was banging in goals left and right. The majority of his tallies were straightforward far-post shots, but one came off a fancy flick inside the near post that left Andrew Weber shaking his head.
Kalif Alhassan, as always, showed off some very slick moves in practice today; most notably freezing Jack Jewsbury in his tracks and creating space for a shot that he then curled high and wide of the goal.
Taylor Peay had his timing down on defense today, stepping forward to make a number of interceptions while holding down his team's left flank.
Schillo Tshuma is game to throw his body around while trying to win the ball or hold off a defender, but he is still the slightest player on the team and he tends to bounce off defenders more than they bounce off him. Still, Tshuma has some good moves in the close quarters of the day's seven on seven match and, with a little more development, could certainly grow into a contributor for the Timbers.