In their second to last day of preseason practice before heading to Arizona, the Portland Timbers continued practicing at Providence Park. This morning's session focused on getting back to the basics of Caleb Porter's preferred style of play: passing and shooting for the midfielders and forwards, passing and heading for the defenders.
The team wrapped up fairly quickly today after three long practices on Friday through Sunday, heading indoors for their gym session after just over an hour's work on the pitch.
After a passing-heavy warmup period, the Timbers broke into three groups, each making use of a third of the field. At the north end of the pitch the Timbers' forwards and midfielders ran through a series of finishing drills, while the center of the pitch had a group consisting of the Timbers' rookies and second year players playing a series of intense short field games, and the south end hosted the Timbers' defenders, who practiced their passing and clearances.
All three groups went through several different twists on their drills. For the forwards that meant first finishing one on one chances after dribbling through a series of dummies, then moving to finishing crosses sent in from either flank, and finally flicking the ball up into the air to themselves for a volleyed finish.
The group of youngsters started off in a 5v3 possession drill, then moved to a 4v4+1 game using small goals, and finally playing an out and out 4v4 with full sized goals and keepers.
Trialists and Guest Players
There were no new arrivals or departures here as Fatawu Safiu, Danny O'Rouke, and Justin Luthy continued their time with the Timbers.
Noteworthy, however, was the following tweet from Safiu, who has been expected to sign on with T2.
Humbleness is the best key of success.. believe over hope work hard...!! pic.twitter.com/zIEYKJ6Ho8— Abdul Fatawu Safiu (@fatawusafui) January 25, 2015
Also, on his Twitter profile, Safiu now has the text "Portland Timbers.." While this is hardly a confirmation (the twitter account is not verified, either), it seems even more likely now that Safiu will be announced as a T2 player shortly.
Injuries and Absences
Will Johnson and Diego Valeri were, once again, on the sidelines, working out with the team's training staff. The pair's exercises today were comprised primarily of a number of vigorous marches, some bordering on Ministry of Silly Walks material.
Liam Ridgewell, on loan at Wigan Athletic since the start of the month, now has a set return date, according to Caleb Porter. Ridgewell is expected to rejoin the Timber on February 16th or 17 as the Timbers resume training in Portland, following their training camp in Arizona.
Porter confirmed that he has been in contact with Ridgewell and expressed hope that the high pressure at Wigan, would see him rejoin the Timbers ready for the season.
Said Porter, "[Wigan] are in a relegation battle on the outside looking in, so every game is going to be massive and [Ridgewell] is going to have to perform and he is going to be under a lot of pressure. He has played now 90' two games in a row, so that is huge. He is healthy and his going to come in sharp and ready to go."
The Timbers corps of goalkeepers acquitted themselves well during the day's shooting drills, with Adam Kwarasey and Jake Gleeson in particular making some high-flying saves early on in the bombardment.
Andrew Weber and Justin Luthy were not without their moments, however. Weber was perhaps the most proactive keeper of the group, closing down the forwards effectively and grabbing crosses too near him with more regularity than the rest of the keepers.
Many of the Timbers' attacking threats seemed to get their shots dialed in quickly during the shooting portion of practice.
Gaston Fernandez impressed early on, bending in sharply curled shots from wide on the left side of the pitch with some regularity, placing the ball just outside the reach of the keepers.
Maximiliano Urruti, meanwhile, was perhaps the most varied in his approach to shooting on goal. The Argentine forward showed off his scoring versatility as he mixed up powerful blasts with curled benders and the occasional side-footed, pinpoint finish.
Michael Nanchoff made his presence known in the finishing drills as well, firing home several bombs with his powerful left foot, but also mixing in some quality finishes with his unfavored right as well.
In the final bout of finishing drills, the volleys, Darlington Nagbe had his chance to shine, taking a moment to replicate his 2011 Goal of the Year winning shot.
New arrival Dairon Asprilla was also on-point during the volleys, burying chance after chance and prompting team owner Merritt Paulson, watching from the sidelines, to check with the Timbers' media staff to see if any of the finishes had been caught on tape. (Hopefully the answer is yes and they share, because those finishes were real pretty...)
The Timbers' defenders certainly had a less exciting time of things at the far end of the pitch, practicing their passing and clearing of the ball in two groups of four.
The probable "first-team" group consisted of Nat Borchers and Norberto Paparatto in the center of the pitch with Jorge Villafana on the left and Alvas Powell on the right. The second group consisted of Danny O'Rourke and Taylor Peay in the center with Jeanderson on the left and Jack Jewsbury on the right.