The Portland Timbers held their first closed practice of the season today as they prepare to take on the San Jose Earthquakes this Sunday in the Rose City Invitational. Training at Providence Park, the Timbers went through their usual warm ups before removing the press from the field ten minutes in.
The day's practice was a tactical session, according to Caleb Porter, who spoke to the press after training. With the team's first home match of the preseason fast approaching, the tone around practice has gotten more intense, Porter said, as the Timbers want to play well in front of their fans even in a preseason friendly.
Porter wants his team prepared for the season to start in earnest:
We have a unique situation where we are on our home field with a crowd and you can feel it. Even though it is not a real game and even though it is not going to be perfect, there are still going to be some things to work out and we will use these game to work those out, we need to get ready now.
For the team, the matches at Providence Park will be as close to the real thing as one can get before March 8th.
We are going to play guys 90'. We are going to make three subs. We are going to dress eighteen guys. We are going to have a crowd. We are going to be at our home field. We are going to try to make it as real as possible.
Injuries and Absences
Diego Valeri completed his first full practice of the season today after returning from his off-season surgery to correct a sports hernia. Porter confirmed that the team hopes to play Valeri for 30' in Sunday's match against the Earthquakes and that they would use the following match on Wednesday against Portmore United to get a better look at some of the players who have been out due to injury. Looking further forward, Porter seemed optimistic on the possibility of Valeri seeing the field for the season opener on March 8th, but he could not guarantee that the Maestro would be ready.
Steve Zakuani, who is also recovering from an off-season sports hernia surgery, was with the team for today's warm up session, but there was no word on how long he practiced. Although Porter was not asked about his potential involvement, Zakuani seems like a good possibility to play in Wednesday's match.
Futty Danso, who only worked on the sidelines on Tuesday and Wednesday as a precaution against a sore groin, was back in the full team warm up today, as expected.
Steven Evans and Rodney Wallace, recovering from surgeries of their own, were once again on the sidelines of practice, working with the trainers before practice was closed.
Trialists and Guest Players
George Fochive and Aaron Long are still with the team and remained on the pitch after practice wrapped up, first passing the ball back and forth, then chipping the ball into the box for volleyed shots, which both alternated burying and sending high or wide.