With just two days left until their first home game of the preseason, Sunday's Simple Invitational match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Portland Timbers put in a training session this morning that focused on possession, set-pieces, and both defending and running the counter.
Working at the team's Beaverton training facility, the Timbers went with two groups of ten field players (the usual starters and reserves) for the day's practice, sending some of the team's young players to train with Portland Timbers 2. Taylor Peay, Anthony Manning, and Andrew Thoma were the group sent to T2, giving them the opportunity to get more involved in training, but also to allow T2 head coach Jay Vidovich to better evaluate his players against the talent of some of the first team youngsters.
The first team started practice off with some passing and finishing drills for the forwards and midfielders that emphasized quick, sharp passes and incisive movements along the opposition's back line. At times, Caleb Porter would criticize his players for playing too safe, encouraging them to be confident in their passes and movements.
The Timbers next went to a series of drills that created mismatches between the number of defending players and the number of attacking players, running 6v4 and 10v6 with different permutations that simulated the scramble to defend/run a quick counter-attack down the pitch.
Next, the Timbers moved on to some 11v11 action on half the pitch, with an attacking group trying to hold possession and score, while the defenders tried to win the ball, hold possession, and break out of the half.
Keeping the 11v11 groups, the Timbers then finished the day off with some set-pieces, both sides getting a chance to attack and to defend. Against a defensive group with only Norberto Paparatto as a true aerial threat, the starters looked dominant on corners and in-swinging free kicks as Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, and Fanendo Adi attacked the ball. Gaston Fernandez and Michael Nanchoff also had opportunities for some direct free kicks, but neither was particularly dialed-in.
Injuries and Absences
Adam Kwarasey was back in training with the rest of the goalkeepers, Andrew Weber and Justin Luthy, for the second day in a row after returning from the hip tightness that kept him out of practice following the team's return from Tucson, AZ.
Jake Gleeson, however, continued to miss practice as he recovers from the high ankle strain that he suffered in the Timbers' 0-0 tie against the San Jose Earthquakes last Tuesday. Gleeson is expected to be out for another 3-5 weeks, according to a statement from Porter earlier this week.
Diego Valeri and Will Johnson continued their respective rehabs on the sidelines of practice today. The pair added a new exercise to their repertoire today, pulling a weighted sled down the pitch while running sprints. The sled provided a moment of comedy when, in his first sprint, Valeri pulled the sled through a small pile of ill-placed water bottles, sending several flying.
Trialists and Guest Players
Danny O'Rourke and Justin Luthy both continued training with the Timbers today. O'Rourke has been mentioned by Porter as a player that the Timbers are still working on signing, while Luthy seems like a probable signing with T2.
Rodney Wallace got some cheers from his fellow players today when he helped to demonstraite one of Porter's finishing drills and successfully scored, prompting Sean McAuley to remark that the "pressure was on" for Wallace to score there.
I am sure that this has appeared in the Practice Notes before: but Gaston Fernandez (5'7") halfheartedly contesting headers against Norberto Paparatto (listed at 6'3", probably 6'4") is always a little funny.
Maximiliano Urruti managed a very interesting tackle on Darlington Nagbe today, missing on his first attempt, but managing to knock the ball out of bounds after a crab-walk-ish scuttle forward and toe-poke at the ball.
Timbers 2 Notes
Another one of the T2 trialists has been identified: Rundell Winchester. Winchester, 21, is a striker with four caps for the Trinidad and Tobago national team who most recently played for C.S. Vise in the Belgian third division.