The Portland Timbers trained at Providence Park this morning as they prepare to take on the Chicago Fire this Sunday in the team's second match of the season. Before practice was closed to the press, the team went through their warm up period on a field set up for a number of short field drills and games.
After practice wrapped up, Caleb Porter talked about the team's preparations for Sunday's match. There were three main points of emphasis in this week's training, according to Porter. The first important component that the team worked on was pressing the ball on defense.
Really ramping up that pressure when the ball turns over and being hard to play through, that's important. There's two sides to the coin: the attacking and the defending, and if one side of the coin is not working then we are not going to be as dominant as a team. I thought we were good in periods [against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday], but I felt that we could have been, at times, harder and hungrier when the ball turns over. Not only be hard to play against when you have the ball, but be hard to play against when we don't have the ball.
The importance of the Timbers' ability to dominate a game through possession and pressure has been a consistent part of Porter's philosophy since taking over the team at the start of last year, but it is not the sole facet of their game plan. The Timbers have often looked at their most dangerous when suddenly breaking down the pitch, something that Porter also emphasized this week.
The second thing was purposeful passing and purposeful possession; making sure that we are moving up the field. Keep the ball on the ground, if possible, but moving up the field and creating attacking actions in that front four group with combinations and penetration, ultimately, and building that acceleration where we are changing gears going to goal.
Finally, the Timbers worked on their set pieces, a constant sore spot for Porter (and pretty much every other coach in history). Darlington Nagbe talked about what the team needs to do in order to improve their set piece defense.
We try to run through set pieces in training and make sure that our positions are marked, but at game time you just have to get in there. I am not normally in the box, so I can't speak to that, but those guys have to get a head on the ball and I have to try to pick up the second balls more.
Injuries and Absences
Pa Modou Kah worked out on the sidelines with one of the team's trainers for the second day in a row after missing the week's first practice on Tuesday. Kah picked up a hamstring knock during Saturday's match against the Union and needed to be subbed out in the 34'. After practice, Porter said that the team would not know until game-time if Kah was ready to play.
Kalif Alhassan was also working with a trainer today after missing practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Kalif also picked up a knock while playing against the Union, although the specifics of his injury are unknown.
Rodney Wallace and Steven Evans rounded out the group of players not participating in the team warm up, as both are still recovering from offseason surgery.