Just a month and a half after the Portland Timbers won the MLS Cup, the team was back on the training pitch at their Beaverton practice facility this morning, putting in their first workout of 2016.
Despite some rust on display and some fitness needing to be regained, the Timbers jumped right in, putting on a session that was structurally identical to what one would expect from the team in the middle of the season.
The Timbers started off training with some brief agility drills before moving into an evolving series of passing drills that saw some of the senior players forced to step in and direct traffic as the newcomers got used to Caleb Porter's fondness for overlapping runs. From there the Timbers moved to a seven on seven plus two possession drill, then broke into three teams of seven for a series of short field games to finish out training.
Injuries and Absences
The Timbers' only absences to start the season were not surprises. Darlington Nagbe remains in camp with the USMNT through their upcoming friendlies against Iceland and Canada, while Liam Ridgewell is still on loan with Brighton and Hove Albion in the English Championship.
The Timbers did have one confirmed injury at the start of preseason; new arrival Chris Klute underwent surgery during the offseason on his meniscus and we kept off to the side of today's session, working with the team's trainers on the sidelines of practice. Klute is expected to be practicing full out in the next three to four day, and should be ready along with the rest of the team for the start of the season, Porter told the press.
MLS journeyman Eric Avila was the lone trialist at training today. Avila, 28, has played for FC Dallas, Toronto FC, the San Jose Earthquakes, and Orlando City SC. An attack-minded midfielder, Avila has been known to line up both centrally and on the left wing.
Khariton Belmar, Justin Luthy, and new signing Akinjide Idowu were the representatives from Portland Timbers 2 at training today. Luthy seems like a likely candidate for the Timbers' 3rd goalkeeper position with the first team after spending the last two years as the team's 4th keeper in various capacities. Belmar, meanwhile, could potentially still earn a spot with the first team, but faces some stiff competition from Michael Seaton and Ben Polk who already have contracts with the first team.
- Diego Valeri looked good all day, but his best moment was a head-slapping chip that arced into the goal just over the fingertips of Jake Gleeson -- whose wingspan makes that feat doubly impressive.
- Jack McInerney didn't exactly make the highlight reel during training today, but he did plenty of things that the Timbers are going to love and other teams are going to hate. He earned a few free kicks for his side in the Timbers' 7v7 match while holding defenders off the ball and looked to link up well with his teammates.
- Idowu was impressive throughout practice, showing why he was such a sought after commodity before signing with the Timbers. Showing off strength on the ball and good, simple passing, Idowu could definitely become an important player for the Timbers somewhere down the road.
- Taylor Peay was very impressive in his range of passing during the Timbers' possession drills and later in their short field matches. Reliably picking out long diagonal balls to his opposite wingers, Peay liked sharp in his first day back.
- Jermaine Taylor is built like a truck. He has broader shoulders than Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell standing side by side.