The Portland Timbers travel up north today in preparation for tomorrow's Cascadia Derby against the Seattle Sounders, but first the team put in their final training session ahead of the all-important match. The session, held at the team's Beaverton training facility, was closed until the final minutes of training when the press were allowed out to the pitch.
The Timbers trained on the turf side of the facility today, preparing for the harder turf of CenturyLink Park. Wrapping things up with a series of 5v5 matches with keepers and a third team of five acting as "bumpers" along the sidelines and endlines of the short field.
Mixing it up with the team was Diego Valeri, who has been practicing full out with the Timbers for the last week. Valeri's presence certainly adds to the faint hope that he could be in the eighteen or even make an appearance in tomorrow's match.
Notably absent was Rodney Wallace, who was working at the other end of the pitch with one of the team trainers. Although this does not rule Wallace out of contention for a spot in the eighteen tomorrow, it is not the step forward that some were hoping for after Caleb Porter's comments on Wallace yesterday.
After practice wrapped up, Darlington Nagbe took a moment to talk to the press. With the team's most heated rivalry coming up, Nagbe was asked about how the team looks in the run-up to the match.
"Everybody handles it their own way," Nagbe said. "Some guys will be nervous; they need to be nervous to play well. Some guys will be calm. But everybody is looking forward to it."
Asked how he falls into the spectrum between nervous and calm, Nagbe gave the expected answer.
"I'm always calm before games," Nagbe said before elaborating. "Maybe a little too calm. I am always calm before games, but it is definitely something that I get excited about."
Talking about this match in particular, Nagbe broke down how to keep players like Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins out of the game and gave some insight into his general philosophy about defending.
"A good way to defend against those two guys in particular is to just keep the ball. If you keep it away from them they will have to defend a little more than they want to; no attacker, including myself, wants to defend. If we can just keep the ball away from them it is a good way to take them out of the game."
There were several notable moments in the brief time practice was open to the press.
Dairon Asprilla took a ball on the volley and hammered a close-range shot from a narrow angle, slamming the ball into the side of the net. While the accuracy was not there, the audacity and power was enough to make all those watching take notice.
Diego Valeri combined well with his teammates, but the moment from the Argentine star that most stood out came when Nat Borchers was holding up the ball in front of his own goal with no great outlet pass. Valeri put pressure on Borchers and, despite the defenders attempt to body him off the ball, got a toe to the ball, poking it just past Andrew Weber and into the goal.
Ishmael Yartey continued showing his propensity for making space for himself on the dribble, even in the relatively tight quarters of this short field. Although he saw plenty of good chances on the dribble, slipping several shots into the corner of the net with admirable placement, Yartey was not universally successful in beating his man. The Salty Dog himself, Jack Jewsbury, was Yartey's foil on the day, containing and dispossessing the speedy trickster on several occasions.
Injuries and Absences
Michael Nanchoff was not on the field today when training was opened to the press. Nanchoff is five weeks in to his recovery from surgery to repair a sports hernia. Nanchoff's original projected absence was 4-6 weeks according to the Timbers' press release at the time.
Ben Zemanski, recovering from ACL surgery, was not on hand today.
The Timbers' loanees to T2 (Jake Gleeson, Taylor Peay, Anthony Manning, Andrew Thoma, Schillo Tshuma, and Will Johnson) were not on hand for today's training session. Johnson is expected to play 50-60 minutes in tonight's away T2 match against Arizona United SC.
Trialists and Guest Players
T2 defender Danny O'Rourke was the only non-roster player on hand today. O'Rourke was added to the T2 roster last week, but is yet to make an appearance for the USL side.