The Portland Timbers put in a short recovery session today at the team's Beaverton training facility. With the starters from Saturday's 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC heading indoors early on in today's practice, the rest of the team stayed on the pitch for a 5v5 short field match with keepers that lasted for the duration.
The on-field portion of today's practice was shorter than last week's infamous post-game meeting.
In the short field game, the Timbers went hard, looking to push their fitness to the exhortations of Caleb Porter on the sidelines. That is not to say that the game was without moments of skill. Maximiliano Urruti, Michael Nanchoff, Lucas Melano, and George Fochive all had standout goalscoring moments, while Jake Gleeson and T2 keeper Daniel Withrow also had some solid moments in goal.
Urruti, who is a human highlight reel in many training sessions, was his typical, audacious self, bringing a number of impressive moves to today's session. Standouts included juggling the ball in the air out side on the wing with Fochive on his back and eventually turning past the holding midfielder and curling a shot past Withrow from close range for the goal; and juggling a chipped pass once on the run then hitting a laser volley on goal with his next touch, all before letting the ball touching the ground. The second chance was saved, but still very impressive.
Melano, while less flashy than Urruti, was also effective, scoring early on with a quick shot from what would have been the top of the box, beating Gleeson at the near post. Melano also scored from close in, getting the ball just in front of the keeper and touching it past him before neatly putting the ball away. Both moves came from Melano's right foot while cutting in from the left wing.
Finally, it was Fochive who had the moment of the day: after getting forward repeatedly and having several blasted shots saved, Fochive received a high pass with his chest, turned 180 degrees as the ball bounced on the ground, and fired off a volley that skipped inside the far post. Prompting a "wow" from a member of the media on the sidelines (me), and general shouts of acclaim from the coaches and players on the pitch, the move was impressive enough that Fochive received applause from his opponents in the match as well.
After practice wrapped up, Porter talked to the press about what the Timbers did differently in their match against the Crew versus their losing effort against the New York Red Bulls in the previous week.
Said Porter, "if the chemistry is off; if the fight isn't there, the will to win; if anything is slightly off then you might win, but probably not in this league, because the talent is so similar that you need to have good performances and you do need to have defending and fight and all those little things. I thought we got that from across the board from all eleven guys in the game and even the three subs when they went in the game, they did a nice job."
"That is what we need from here on out. We are not so much better than teams that we can just show up and get a few good performances," said Porter. "We can't just show up and think we'll attack and some guys defend, some don't. It needs to be eleven guys attacking, eleven guys defending, eleven guys bought in, eleven guys who want to win, who want to fight, who want to work, and who want to make the playoffs. I thought we got that in the last game and we'll need to get that in the next game as well. That is the key. We need a response after the big win now. We can't relax at all. The table won't allow us to relax."
Injuries and Absences
Will Johnson was not in training today after missing Saturday's match against the Crew. Johnson, who is now one year out from the broken leg that he suffered late in 2014, is still suffering from some of the soreness associated with the injury that is affecting his performance.
"You saw in the New York game that [Johnson] was not able to perform and move in a way that he is used to moving to be as effective as he can be," Porter told the press after practice. "We are evaluating some options with the medical staff and talking to doctors about some was that we can, perhaps, get him that extra kind of ten or fifteen percent. Nothing to be alarmed about, but he is looking at options for how we can get his leg to be back to one hundred percent."
The impression that Porter gave, while not coming out and saying it, is that Johnson will be, at best, a game to game decision for the Timbers this season.
"Ultimately, Will Johnson is a key player for us, so even though [Jack Jewsbury] is playing well, we need to look at [Johnson's] performance and some of that performance is based on his movement," Porter continued.
Andrew Weber was also not in training today, spending practice watching from the sidelines. Weber, Porter said, is still suffering from the back spasms that kept him out of training earlier this month and will be kept out of training for the next several days.
As always, Ben Zemanski was on the sidelines doing a whole lot of running under the supervision of the team's trainers as he continues to recover from the torn ACL that he suffered in the preseason this year.