The Portland Timbers held an intrasquad scrimmage at Providence Park this morning, putting on a show for the dozens of season ticket holders who braved the rain and wind to watch them play. (Also, who did not have to be at work at 10:30 on a Tuesday.)
The practice started out like any other, with the team going through their usual warm ups. As the team moved into a series of passing drills, however, the Timbers split up into two groups, the two teams that would face each other in the day's scrimmage.
The White/Black Team: Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Pa Modou Kah, Norberto Paparatto, Jack Jewsbury; Will Johnson, Diego Chara; Kalif Alhassan, Gaston Fernandez, Darlington Nagbe; Maximiliano Urruti
The Green/Orange Team: Andrew Weber; Jorge Villafana, Rauwshan McKenzie, Taylor Peay, Alvas Powell; George Fochive, Ben Zemanski; Schillo Tshuma, Michael Nanchoff, Aaron Long; Frederic Piquionne
The match, consisting of one 45' half and one 35' half, started off fairly evenly, with neither team really able to control the run of play. In the early going, however, the industriousness of the Green Team's midfielders, particularly Zemanski, allowed them to keep the White Team bottled up in their own end for long stretches of play.
Both teams had dangerous moments, putting shots on or around the goal, but neither looked very likely to score. The closest call in the first half came when a curled in ball from Jewsbury found the head of Fernandez, but he could not put the shot on goal.
The second half saw the match open up as both teams pushed forward looking for the first goal of the day. The moment was almost on hand early in the half when Nanchoff drove to the endline and sent a low, hard cross through the box to Tshuma, whose volleyed shot beat Ricketts at the near post, but bounced off the post instead of going into the back of the net.
Minutes later Urruti returned the favor, making a curling run that put him in behind the Green Team's defense just as Nagbe slipped a nicely weighted ball through the defensive line. Urruti corralled the ball and put a smooth rolling shot to the far post that Weber could not get a hand to, only to have his shot hit the post as well.
The two teams continued to battle back and forth with the White Team steadily increasing the pressure on the Green Team until, finally, they got on the board. With only minutes to go in the match, the ball was sent into the box and found its way to Urruti who was able to strike the ball home cleanly, bouncing it past Weber from close range to make the score 1-0.
The White Team got their insurance goal shortly thereafter as Nagbe controlled the ball calmly at the top of the box. With Fernandez making a run, Nagbe chipped the ball over the defenders to the onrushing La Gata, who calmly chipped the ball over Weber, who could do nothing about it. With the score at 2-0, the referee blew his whistle and the game wrapped up.
Injuries and Absences
Bryan Gallego and Jake Gleeson both left the team today to join up with Sacramento Republic FC, where they will be on loan this season, Caleb Porter confirmed. Porter also noted that the Timbers would likely send one or two more players on loan, but that the team would wait and see before doing so.
Futty Danso, who was not a part of practice for the second day in a row, was out due to groin tightness as a precautionary measure. Futty could rejoin the team as early as tomorrow and is expected back by Friday. Futty did watch a large part of today's scrimmage from the entrance to the locker room.
Steven Evans, Diego Valeri, Rodney Wallace, and Steve Zakuani, all of whom are recovering from off-season surgeries, were not present on the pitch at practice today.
Trialists and Guest Players
George Fochive and Aaron Long both continued practicing with the team today and were given positive reviews by Porter after practice was concluded. Both draftees are not yet under contract with the Timbers.
- Villafana, although he spent much of the night pinned back by the White Team's attack, started the game off right, juking Jewsbury out of his boots with a beautiful move down the left sideline.
- Peay, whose leadership Porter has commented on before, took charge of his back line, barking out orders and keeping them organized through much of the match.
- Nagbe, in what is quickly becoming a trend, used his left foot several times this match. It may sound like I am harping on this, but a two footed Nagbe could be a real force to be reckoned with.
- Villafana, with all his options marked on a throw in deep in the opposing half, pulled the ol' throw the ball off a players back and take it yourself, a fairly uncommon move.
- After some early tussles with Powell, Kalif had the measure of the young Jamaican, dribbling by him repeatedly and sending several dangerous balls into the box. In the second half Kalif repeated the feat with Villafana on the other side of the pitch, although with generally lesser results as he seemed to be tiring.
- At one point Nagbe went shoulder to shoulder with Tshuma and sent the youngster flying. Schillo looked very much like 2011 Nagbe getting tossed around by a veteran of the league.
- Especially early on in the match, the aerial battle between Paparatto and Piquionne, and to a lesser extent Kah and Piquionne, was a remarkably physical one. Both players look like nightmares to go up against in the air, yet somehow both emerged from each clash unscathed.
- Toward the end of the match Urruti was still chasing down every ball along the Green Team's back line and keeping the defense under pressure, even while some of his teammates started to flag.