Today's session saw the Timbers exit the pitch slightly early as the team headed indoors for their usual gym session, somewhat a-typical for the Timbers who usually stay on the pitch for a longer session two days before a match.
During the period that practice was open to the press, the majority of the team were stretching in the center of the pitch. There was some activity, however, as Caleb Porter ran a small group through a drill focused on defending corner kicks. With Jeanderson serving the ball in and suspended T2 player Rennico Clarke and academy player Peter Prescott attacking the goal, Adam Kwarasey manned the goal with Diego Chara and Maximiliano Urruti defending and Jorge Villafana on the near post.
Chara and Urruti are generally not who one thinks of when contemplating the Timbers' corner kick defense, so seeing Porter continuing to work with them while the rest of the team cooled down was something of a surprise. With free kick defense always a concern, however, it is hard to argue with refining every element in the process, particularly with a player like Kaka in the mix for Orlando.
Porter addressed the Orlando City man's quality as he spoke to the press after practice.
"He has basically got a free role," Porter said, when asked about Kaka. "He plays kind of as a second striker or an attacking mid, but he floats wide, he is up top. He goes where he wants to and where he needs to to impact the game. We need to make sure that we are aware of his movement and aware of his positioning at all times."
"When he does get on the ball, he is special. He can score, he can play final passes, he is clever, and he is lethal at set pieces."
Dealing with the Brazilian designated player, a World Cup winner with his national team and a UEFA Champions League winner with AC Milan, will be no easy task for the Timbers, nor anyone else in the league. Porter, however, has a clear approach for taking on the star players in MLS.
"You just defend: be organized in your back six; don't give him time and space to play," Porter said. "You obviously have to get guys tight to him in your zones so that he feels pressure and that he is not allowed to get faced up."
Widening his lens somewhat, Porter continued, "It is time and space. Good players with time and space will eat you alive. The key is not letting good players get time and space. You do that with organization and numbers, then within the zone you do that with the first defender getting tight. We have done that with [Robbie Keane], we have done that with [Javier Morales and Pedro Morales] this year."
Timbers keeper Adam Kwarasey provided some perspective on Orlando and their star player when he talked to the press after training.
"He's not out there alone," said Kwarasey. "For me he is like any other player. He is brilliant, but they have other players that are good as well. Of course, we have to be close to him all the time and not give him a lot of room or space because he is able to drive shots from distance and also play smart passes. It is a teamwork thing: we all have to be alert."
Injuries and Absences
By the end of training when the press were allowed out to the pitch, Diego Valeri and Will Johnson were both on the sidelines and Michael Nanchoff was not present. Nanchoff, was, however, spotted leaving the training center after the rest of the team headed indoors for their gym session.
Trialists and Guest Players
T2 keeper Daniel Withrow was on hand with the Timbers today while Jake Gleeson and Justin Luthy are on the road with T2.
T2 defender Rennico Clarke was also on hand for today's training session. Clarke will miss Saturday's T2 match after picking up a game suspension for a pair of yellow cards in Wednesday's 1-1 draw against Real Monarchs.
Academy defender Peter Prescott continued his time training with the Timbers today. Prescott has been on hand for most of this week as the Vancovuer, WA schools are on their spring break.
Danny O'Rourke continued his time as a guest player with the Timbers today.