The Portland Timbers finshed their week's practice at the team's Beaverton training facility today before taking for for Sandy, UT and tomorrow's match against Real Salt Lake. Practice started late, in following with the Timbers' standard pre-game practice, and wrapped up quickly.
By the time the press was allowed out onto the field following the Timbers' practice only the keepers, except Donovan Ricketts, were still on the pitch. Caleb Porter, however, was available and took a moment to give some insight into the Timbers' approach to tomorrow's match against an opponent who are coming into their third game in eight days..
I think we always try to push the pace. I think that last time we played them possession was a big key going into that game. I thought that the fact that we had more possession than them, on the road, versus the best possession team in the league typically, was a big reason why we were in a position to win the game. That needs to be a very important part of the game, because by having the ball you make them defend and if they have played a lot of games and they have to defend more then that puts even more pressure on them. We will push the game with possession.
On the defensive side of the ball, Porter emphasized the Timbers' high pressure approach, but still preached caution against a clearly skillful RSL side.
In terms of pressing, we will press, but it has to be organized and it has got to be compact and I think there are times where we press and we get stretched, so we are going to press at the right times. We are going to look to trap them in certain situations. We are going to look to create numerical supiriority in certain areas of the field. We are not just going to fly around all over the field, but we are definitely not just going ot sit back either. That wouldn't be smart because if you sit back you let them do what they want to do.
In a match between two team's with similar styles of play, the Timbers need to be the better team as the possession and pressure game, according to Porter.
They want to have the ball and they want to control the game. We want to do what they want to do better than them. That is a real key to beating Salt Lake and probably a reason why we have struggled against Salt Lake: they are one of the few teams that tries to do what we do and, in the games where we have played them, they have done it better than we have. I think we need to play better than they do at the system that we both play, the style that we both play.
Injuries and Absences
Ricketts had a "little bit of a tweak" following his sweeper-keeper stint against the Vancouver Whitecaps, according to Caleb Porter. However, Porter confirmed that the Timbers are "optimistic that he will be fine for the game." After practice yesterday, the team confirmed that Ricketts had participated in practice then.
Pa Modou Kah continues to be sore due to a case of achilles tendonitis, Porter said today. The team will be cautious in managing Kah's minutes as he continues to recover, according to Porter, and will likely only use him in one of the Timbers' two games this week.
Norberto Paparatto is healthy, available, and 100%, according to Porter, who confirmed that the Timbers centerback has suffered no further concussion symptoms since going through the league's return to play protocol over the weekend.
Although we did not specifically ask about Ben Zemanski, he was still suffering concussion symptoms at the start of the week and would still be going through the recovery protocol if they had abated, so he will not be available for tomorrow's match.
Trialists and Guest Players
Although the field was mostly empty by the time the press were allowed out to observe, we did get to see Joe Wheelwright, a keeper with the Timbers Academy, practicing with keeper coach Mike Toshack.
Also with the keepers in practice was Timbers U-23s keeper Brendan Moore.