The Portland Timbers were back on the training pitch today, working out the kinks from three days off following their traumatic 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. With a home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps coming up quickly this weekend, the Timbers put in a hard day's work to start their week.
Practice, which was open to the press today, started off with a series of basic agility exercises for a warmup then broke into a possession drill with three teams of seven taking turns trying to get off five passes then clear the ball while three members of one of the other two teams pressed them.
Next the Timbers moved on to the more interesting part of the day: alternating five on five matches with keepers on the outside of the field and a running circuit with several different components in the center.
In the early going, it appeared that the team containing Gaston Fernandez, Maximiliano Urruti, Norberto Paparatto, and Michael Nanchoff started the tournament off strong, carving up their opposition with quick passing, precision dribbling, and deadly finishing. However, as the drill went on, fitness and new match ups came into play and the team consisting of Taylor Peay, Jeanderson, George Fochive, Andy Thoma, Anthony Manning, and Justin Luthy looked very strong thanks to their constant heavy pressure and some huge saves from Luthy.
The two sides met in the final match of the four team round robin tournament and it looked like the youngsters would get the win after going up two goals early on, only for the Argentines to tie things up on a (relatively in the tight space they were playing in) long range curler from Fernandez. The youngsters had one last chance for the win in the final seconds with Jeanderson seemingly alone on goal, but as he pulled the trigger, Nanchoff came sliding in and blocked the ball away, preserving the tie for his team.
There were highlights to be had in the circuit drill as well, with Diego Chara providing a pair of class finishes on goal -- the final component of each lap of the circuit. First Chara completely bamboozled Andrew Weber with a close-in chip that went just over the fingertips of the keeper and dropped just under the bar for the goal. Next, Chara found a bit of magic with a low, near-post shot that Luthy thought he had saved, only to have the ball spin into the back of the net.
Once the five on five matches were wrapped up, the majority of the team began to go through their usual post practice stretching routine. Will Johnson and Diego Valeri, however, went off to continue their training elsewhere. Johnson, in a move reminiscent of the 2013 season, left the training pitch to run sprints by himself on the Timbers' adjacent turf field. Valeri, meanwhile, worked on his finishing and through balls with coaches Sean McAuley and Pablo Moreira.
Injuries and Absences
Ben Zemanski was on the pitch today and continued his return from the ACL tear that he suffered at the beginning of the season. Working with the team's trainers, Zemanski went through a series of resistance exercises, first working on the practice pitch with resistance bands then moving to the turf to pull a weighted sled around the pitch under the supervision of trainer Nick Milonas.
Talking to the press after practice, Caleb Porter noted that Zemanski was looking good in his recovery, particular after a broken kneecap earlier in his rehabilitation, but would not be ready to return this season.
The rest of the Timbers' injured players who were kept out of last Saturday's match -- Diego Chara, Norberto Paparatto, Maximiliano Urruti, Adam Kwarasey, and Darlington Nagbe -- all fully participated in training today. According to Porter, he will not know if they are fully fit until later this week.
Portland Timbers 2
Luthy and Danny O'Rourke were the only T2 players on hand for today's training session.
Anthony Manning, who was a T2 player until last week, was added to the Timbers' first team before the match last weekend against the Union. According to Porter the plan was always to add Manning to the first team roster, although he will be reevaluated at the end of the year, just like the rest of the players on the team.
Regular loanees to T2 Taylor Peay, Andy Thoma, and Jake Gleeson were all with the first team today, while Nick Besler and Schillo Tshuma were not on hand for the day's training session.