The Portland Timbers held their first training session of the week this morning at the team's Beaverton training center and on hand was new signing Lucas Melano. The Timbers' new designated player made his debut with the team in today's short-handed session, working with half the first team, while the players who started on Saturday or with T2 on Sunday were indoors for a yoga session or practicing later in the day with T2.
With only a small group on hand, the Timbers kept practice simple, running through a series of possession drills, including an 8v2 rondo and a 4v4+2, passing drills, a 6v5 match that pitted the attacking players against the defenders and a keeper, and finally a finishing drill that saw the attacking group play a wall pass off an obstacle as though off a target forward as they carried the ball into the box to shoot.
After training wrapped up, Caleb Porter addressed the assembled press and gave a quick update on the the Timbers' newest player. According to Porter, Melano will hopefully be available to play in this weekend's match against FC Dallas, although he did not yet know if he is available now. Melano has been waiting on his international transfer certificate before he can play a match for the Timbers.
Porter also told the press that Melano is still working his way back to full fitness, but that as an attacking player it is easier to work him into the squad without relying on him to be ninety minutes fit.
For his part, Melano told the press that he has been training in Argentina and he is ready to play with the team, but that he just needs to wait for his paperwork (presumably the ITC) to come through.
In training Melano seemed to fit in immediately and, when there was some confusion, the Timbers' large Argentine and general Spanish-speaking contingents were quick to step in and help out, including assistant coach Pablo Moreira. While today's was a somewhat low-intensity practice, it was immediately obvious from the drills that the team ran through, that Melano is a heads-up player, staying balanced and surveying the field when receiving the ball, and picking out slick passes through traffic.
In the late going in practice, Melano initially lined up out wide on the right for the Timbers' 6v5 drill, before moving inside and playing alongside Maximiliano Urruti at striker. While Melano impressed with much of his play, the obvious deficiency was in his understanding with his teammates as he played with them for the first time -- failing to connect on quick one-two passes or making the same run as Urruti.
Urruti's intensely bleached blonde hair was the talk of the weekend when he debuted it for Saturday's match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but at training today he was almost unrecognizable with his hair dyed back to a dark brown.
Injuries and Absences
With most of the team was indoors it was difficult to get a read on which of the Timbers' players were still recovering from previous injuries or new knocks suffered at the hands (and mostly feet) of the Whitecaps.
Ben Zemanski, however, was the lone player known to be injured who was on the pitch and working with a trainer. Zemanski only recently returned to training on the pitch following his ACL tear during the preseason.