The Portland Timbers held a short, closed practice this morning and followed it up with a lengthy session in the gym as the team gets ready for their final match of the preseason: Saturday's 5:00 pm match against Norwegian side Stabaek.
Working at the team's Beaverton training facility, the Timbers once again split up into two groups. The players who put in a long shift during yesterday's 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire, including Darlington Nagbe and Fanendo Adi who each played 45', went through one of the team's usual regeneration sessions; doing some light jogging around the pitch until training was closed. The rest of the team, usual starters who did not play yesterday and players who were only on the pitch for less than a full half, started things off with their usual kick-around and rondo session, then started some agility drills as practice was closed.
After training wrapped up, keeper Adam Kwarasey spoke with the press about the team's progress in the preseason and how the team is coming together for him.
Kwarasey had not spoken with the press since his first appearance in front of the fans at Providence Park, last Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"I think it is good to play in front of a crowd; to get a feel for what a real league match would be like," Kwarasey said. "I would say that it went okay. We should have won, but for me it is still about getting to know the guys and building good relationships with them."
A keeper who is much more inclined to come out of his box for the ball than the Timbers' previous No. 1, Donovan Ricketts, Kwarasey talked about how he is coming together with his defensive line.
"I am just trying to be myself and that is the way I play and that is what they are going to get. That is also part of getting to know the guys: they also need to get to know me and the way that I play."
As he integrates for the team, Kwarasey emphasized the importance of getting on the same page as his defenders.
When asked about the most important aspects of playing with a free-roaming keeper, Kwarasey listed, "communication and how we react; how they react to my actions and I how I react to their actions."
He then went on, "when you come off your line like I do a lot then the chemistry has to be perfect or sometimes it can cause some silly situations. It will go fast and I think that it is easy to adjust to the way that I play for the defenders; they can use me whenever they want to. I am comfortable with my feet."
Of course, with Liam Ridgewell off on loan for the start of the Timbers' preseason, Kwarasey has only had a little over one week to work with the English centerback. Kwarasey was quick to praise the Timbers' designated player when asked about only having such a short amount of time with one of the team's key players.
"He has got a lot of experience and he talks a lot; he is a leader. It is really easy to play with him and I think that I can learn a lot from him even though he is only a couple of years older than me because his presence makes me safe. I feel safe with him and that is a good thing to have for a goalie."
Injuries and Absences
Michael Nanchoff was not with the team for practice today after being forced off the field during last night's match with a reported strained hip flexor. Nanchoff was present at the practice facility, but headed indoors rather than on the pitch.
Diego Chara was back on the pitch for practice after missing Monday and Tuesday due to a knock picked up in last Sunday's rough and tumble match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Caleb Porter told the press earlier this week that the team is targeting a return in time for Saturday's match against Stabaek for Chara.
Will Johnson and Diego Valeri were not on the pitch today as they continue their rehabilitation from injuries suffered last season. Johnson had been in New York City, taking part in the MLS Players Union's negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, although I am not sure if he is still there or has returned to Portland.
Ben Zemanski was spotted walking out of the training center wearing a knee brace today. After tearing his ACL on Sunday, Zemanski has been waiting for the swelling in his knee to go down before undergoing surgery to repair the torn ligament.
Jake Gleeson is still working his way back from a high ankle sprain suffered during the Timbers' time in Tucson. Gleeson did not train with the team, but was again on the pitch in an immobilizing boot and worked with keeper coach Mike Toshack.
Trialists and Guest Players
Blair Gavin and Rundell Winchester, a pair of trialists who had been training with T2 and who made brief appearances in last night's match, were with the first team for practice this morning. Gavin, 26, is a defensive midfielder, while Winchester, 21, is a winger/forward who lined up at left mid in his appearance last night.
Danny O'Rourke is still with the team.