Ok. Getting back into the swing of things with a quick and dirty training report. -Will
This morning the Portland Timbers held their final practice session before heading off to Sandy, Utah for tomorrow evening's match against Real Salt Lake. Working at the team's Beaverton training facility, the Timbers put in a short pre-game practice session before flying out in the afternoon.
Talking to the press after practice, Liam Ridgewell was adamant that the Timbers would be facing a strong and high pressing RSL team tomorrow, one that would look to put pressure on the ball high up the pitch and get forward in the attack early and often.
Asked if he was suffering from a sense of deja vu coming into these final, must-win matches, Ridgewell responded, "a little bit, maybe. But we're in the playoffs at the moment. We're in the six-spot, so that is a good thing. Last year we were trying to make up ground and trying to win the games and make up points. This year we are in there and we need to make sure that we stay there."
How the Timbers intend to get the points necessary to reclaim the No. 6 spot on the table from the San Jose Earthquakes (Ridgewell must be thinking in terms of points per game), should come as no surprise as the Timbers will, according to Ridgewell, look to stick to their game plan against RSL.
"We've just got to play our game," said Ridgewell. "We've been doing that all year. The first thing we talked about at the start of the season was that we just need to play the way we play and we will win most of our games and do well. And you know what? For most of the season we have; maybe for lacking a few goals and a few defensive clean sheets we would have been higher up the table, but that is all gone and we have got to go into these three games and pick up as many points as we can."
Ridgewell continued, "it's in our hands, so if we win our three games then we are in the playoffs. We've just got to do better than other teams that are around us. We can't help what other teams are doing, we can only concentrate on ourselves."
Of course, the last time the Timbers faced off against RSL, they just barely managed to grab a 1-0 win on the strength of an extra-time header from Nat Borchers. For his part, Ridgewell thought that the Timbers could take something away from that win: not necessarily confidence from the result, but a drive to perform better en route to the win this time around.
"We scored in the last minute, so I'm sure that they will be looking to put one back on us," Ridgewell said. "We didn't play as well as we could in that game and that is a big bonus because we have played very well this season and that is one game that really sticks out where we didn't do too well. We can improve on that performance and hopefully we can get a few more goals and not leave it so late this time.
Injuries and Absences
Jack Jewsbury has been dealing with a foot injury, Caleb Porter told the press yesterday, and is questionable for tomorrow's match. Although he was not spotted on the training pitch after practice opened yesterday while most of the team was still on the field, today the proceedings were closed until the players were headed indoors so it was difficult to say whether Jewsbury trained with the team or not. Regardless, Jewsbury was not spotted on the pitch during training today.
Will Johnson, who is making his comeback from a minor surgery to remove two screws from the tibia that he broke at the end of last year, was working with the team's trainers on the pitch after practice yesterday and continued doing so today, but is not expected to be back in practice until later this week. Whether Johnson could be back to game fitness in time to make an impact for the Timbers in their final games of the season remains to be seen.
Ben Zemanski continued to make strides in his return from the torn ACL that he suffered in preseason this year. While it was difficult to tell just what level Zemanski is at now, he was involved in the same drill that Will Johnson was running with the team trainers today after most of the team had left the pitch, one that looked as vigorous and intense as anything we have seen out of him since the injury. With Zemanski's expected return to training coming up soon, it is good to see that he seems to still be on track.