The Portland Timbers returned to the adidas Timbers Training Center on Saturday morning under grey, drizzly skies while the media remained inside eating donuts.
By the time the media were allowed outside near the field, only Dairon Asprilla and George Fochive remained of the group that played on Thursday. Asprilla, Will Johnson, Danny O’Rourke, and Sean McAuley (who promptly declared himself exhausted) playfully worked some crosses and finishes on the near end of the field while a group of T2 players huddled up on the far end.
Nat Borchers was first in the media scrum and, when asked how he’s feeling, reported he feels good and likes the rhythm of having a midweek and weekend game in the playoffs with the added adrenaline. Borchers noted physical recovery from a game like Thursday’s starts the night of the game with nutrition and sleep, and then stressed the importance of getting a good regeneration session in on Friday afternoon. As for his own rest on Thursday night, Borchers said he didn’t hit the hay until 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. after he watched the game highlights and took in the reaction on social media.
Looking ahead to Vancouver, Borchers said Kansas City’s physical style is good preparation for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Borchers specifically noted the Whitecaps are effective on the counterattack, but that he felt the Timbers had played well against Vancouver throughout the season even though they didn’t necessarily get the results this year.
Adam Kwarasey echoed Borchers’s sentiments regarding physical recovery, and stated he’d mentally moved on from Thursday as well:
"Thursday was Thursday. And Monday, Thursday will be forgotten. It’s all about what we do tomorrow."
On watching highlights of the penalties, Kwarasey admitted his memory was a little bit hazy: "I can’t remember the spontaneous feeling because everything went so fast, but it looks like it was fun." When asked, however, Kwarasey assured the media he wasn’t going to lobby to be moved up in the penalty order in light of his game-winner on Thursday.
The main event at training, however, was Caleb Porter’s media availability. Buttering up the gaffer with a donut before the scrum didn’t help the assembled media get information on Diego Chara’s availability on Sunday, as Porter said he would "give [the media] nada - donut," on that subject. Porter relented a little bit, however, and said Chara did a little bit more in training on Saturday, but that whether the original DP would play would be a gametime decision because Chara still has some soreness.
Porter said physical fatigue from Thursday would not play a major role on Sunday because the third day after a game is a normal heavy-load day for the Timbers in their training cycle. Similarly, Porter wasn’t concerned about mental recovery from the Kansas City game, but reported that he was up until 4:00 a.m. after the victory, even if that isn’t unusual for him after a game. For his part, however, Porter assured the media that he feels great even if he may not necessarily look great.
Although Porter didn’t eliminate the possibility of some squad rotation on Sunday, he at least casted shade on the prospect, stating that during the playoffs you have to play your best players. Porter noted Vancouver has the benefit of extra preparation time, but that he likes that the Timbers have their first playoff win under their belt and are in a playing rhythm. The coach acknowledged, however, that substitutes would likely play a bigger role because of the turnaround and the fact that there won’t be any extra time.
As far as the Timbers’ approach to the game, Porter didn’t seem to be treating it very differently from any other home game. Although he noted he expects the game to stay a little bit tight because of the two-leg format, Porter was clear the Timbers’ mindset is to play to win even though they are confident in their ability to score and win on the road.
With regard to specific players, Porter went a little bit out of his way to praise Rodney Wallace in big moments:
I didn’t really realize it, but he’s had a career year in assists. It’s good for him to get another goal there. And that’s Rodney. Rodney steps up in big games, that’s why I always go to him.
On the subject of Will Johnson, Porter said the captain is healthy, but not 90 minutes fit. Perhaps the bigger barrier to Johnson making an appearance on Sunday, however, is the rhythm other players are in and whether a situation would arise in a game in which a box-to-box midfielder would make sense as a substitute. Jack Jewsbury has been very steady as a holding midfielder, and a box-to-box player isn’t usually the kind of player a team would bring in for defensive cover.