With their final match against an Eastern Conference opponent, Toronto FC, coming up on Saturday, the Portland Timbers got in one more day of training this morning before flying out. A closed session, today's training went short for those who did not play in last night's 6-0 drubbing of Alpha United, while those who did had an even shorter session, going through the team's recovery protocols.
As the press were let out onto the practice field, the Timbers had almost entirely headed indoors, with only Kalif Alhassan, Andrew Weber, and Justin Luthy still on the pitch. All three headed indoors shortly thereafter and Caleb Porter joined the press to talk about Toronto.
Jermaine Defoe, recently returned to Toronto after some tumultuous times during which he was linked to a move overseas, is a concern for the Timbers as they prepare for the match, Porter said.
With a guy like that you have to be prepared for him to be in there. If he is in there they are a much different team... If you look at their results when he has been in there, he was a key early in the year. He was scoring goals and they were winning games.
They did well last game without him, but he is certainly one of the best strikers in the league and when he is in there you have to pay attention to him.
Looking at Toronto with a wider lens, Porter sees a team that is now desperate for wins, having dropped three points below the red line in the Eastern Conference.
They are going to be motivated. They are in a playoff push right now. They have never made the playoffs.
I will say what I said last game: I think our experience will pay off for us, out composure. I think we have got to realize that they are going to be motivated. They are going to be flying around. They are going to be aggressive. We need to be aware of that.
As the Timbers prepare for Toronto, however, the Timbers mantra has remained consistent: play your game and the points will come.
They are an organized team. Like every team they are good enough to beat you if you don't play and perform. We will prepare for them tactically, prepare for them individually in terms of the talent they have, just like every game.
The key thing is, like I always say, we have got to respect them, but we need to perform well, and if we perform well I think the result will be positive.
Injuries and Absences
Steve Zakuani, Porter said in last night's post-game press conference, has been dealing with a number of small strains recently that may be related to the catastrophic leg injury he suffered while with the Seattle Sounders. Although he did not get into the specifics of the injuries, Porter did admit that the Timbers may need to "shut down" Zakuani.
Alhassan was working with a trainer on the turf field at the Timbers' practice facility when the press were allowed out onto the field. I did not get an update on his condition.
Jake Gleeson has rejoined Sacramento Republic FC for the USL Pro Championship game this Saturday. Gleeson is one of three keepers nominated as a finalist for the USL Pro keeper of the year.