After two days off following their season oping 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake, the Portland Timbers were back in training today and looking forward toward their Sunday afternoon match against the MLS Cup winning LA Galaxy.
Practicing at the team's Beaverton training facility, the Timbers worked on possession and finishing in a variety of drills today.
The day's session started with the usual fifteen minutes of warmups and agility drills under the supervision of the team trainers. Next up were some new variations on the Timbers' usual passing drills, which as always started simple and got increasingly complex as they went on. As these drills finished, the Timbers sent several of the first team's youngsters --Nick Besler, Anthony Manning, Taylor Peay, Schillo Tshuma, and Andrew Thoma -- indoors to continue their workout.
Having worked through the early staples of almost every Timbers practice, the team then went to another common drill with a slightly different twist than normal: a 5v3 possession drill on a larger than normal area, giving the possessing team the advantage despite facing more defenders than are usually seen in such a drill. Walking between the two groups doing the drill, Caleb Porter told the team that the players who hold possession might never have to play defense.
Next the Timbers went to a larger scale possession drill, combining the two groups and adding assistant coach Sean McAuley for a 7v7+3. In the center, the "+3" was made up of Darlington Nagbe, Jack Jewsbury, and Diego Chara, a likely group for the Timbers' midfield threesome if the team stick with the 4-3-3 that they rolled out against RSL over the weekend. The two groups of seven were made up of the rest of the Timbers' starters in one group and everyone else in the other.
After some time, the Timbers added a new wrinkle to the drill, changing it from a possession game to one focused on breaking in on goal. The groups of seven and the group of three stayed the same, but one group of seven was not the designated attacking team and the other the designated defending team. The defenders started with the ball and were tasked with holding possession, while the attackers were told to win the ball, complete five passes, then break on the goal at the end of the pitch. When this drill wrapped up the team's two most senior players, Nat Borchers and Jack Jewsbury, were sent indoors to start their gym session.
From there the Timbers recombined into two new teams of seven, each a mixture of starters and bench players, for a short field 7v7 game with keepers to close out training.
Injuries and Absences
Chara was back in practice and participated for the full session today. After spending two weeks of training on the sidelines and missing the home opener following a calf contusion suffered in the Timbers' contentious preseason match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, today was Chara's first full practice seen by the press since his injury. After practice wrapped up, Porter told the press that Chara was "one hundred percent today" and that the team are "hopeful" that he will be available for Sunday's match against LA.
Will Johnson and Diego Valeri worked out on the sidelines of the pitch today with fitness coach Nick Milonas. The pair went through a series of drills with Milonas, including some passing and significant amounts of running as they look to regain their fitness and return to training with the team. Johnson, who is recovering from a broken tibia and fibula, could rejoin the team in the next several weeks, while Valeri, who is recovering from a torn ACL, is expected at to be out for even longer.
Jake Gleeson once again hit the pitch later than the rest of the team, working out one on one with T2 goalkeeping coach Steve Reese and later joined by first team keeper coach Mike Toshack. While Gleeson had been wearing an ankle brace and limiting his lateral movement last week, today he was brace free and did not look restricted in his movements. Before hitting the pitch, Gleeson was overheard saying that he could be back in full training this week.
Ben Zemanski was not spotted at the training center today as he recovers from surgery to repair the torn ACL he suffered in the Timbers' preseason match against Vancouver.
Trialists and Guest Players
Danny O'Rourke continued training with the Timbers today as he looks for a new team. O'Rourke, despite preseason speculation to the contrary, is not expected to be signed by the Timbers.
Justin Luthy was also with the Timbers in training today. The potential T2 signee was on hand to give the Timbers an extra body in net while Gleeson continues his recovery.
Fanendo Adi and Rodney Wallace seem to be consistently on the same page springing Wallace in the box with regular 1-2 passes.
Several players were very impressive in the 7v7 game at the end of practice. Standouts included Maximiliano Urruti and Jeanderson, both of whom put on close-control clinics en route to scoring and creating several chances for their team.
On the defensive side of things, Norberto Paparatto stood out in the confined quarters of the 7v7, putting in some big tackles and blocks, sliding or otherwise, over the course of the proceedings.
Alvas Powell had a beautiful attempt at a long-range chip on Adam Kwarasey that the keeper only managed to grab by the fingertips. Powell's "shot" was betrayed as a cross, however, by calling for Urruti at the back post.
After practice was over, team owner Merritt Paulson was juggling a soccer ball on the practice pitch and was egged on to take a shot by Porter. Paulson's attempt hit the crossbar. He later claimed to have been attempting the crossbar challenge.