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Portland Timbers Training Quotes and Notes: Fabulous Finishing

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William Conwell

The Portland Timbers preseason continued today as the team put in their third day of training in 2016.

Working at the team's Beaverton practice facility, the Timbers kept up the steady pace of their early preseason, going through a series of agility and finishing drills to open practice, then moving to a series of five on five drills that had groups of attacking players going at groups of defenders, before finally wrapping up the day's training with a full eleven on eleven scrimmage using two thirds of the field.

Portland Timbers scrimmage. Will Conwell. 1/25/16

Trailists and Guest Players

Eric Avila, the Timbers' only trialist to date in 2016, was still with the team today and played primarily a central attacking midfield role with the side. In the early finishing drills, Avila showed off some significant skills, generally striking the ball with power and placement. In the scrimmage late in practice, Avila had a clear disconnect with his teammates at points, not finding their runs and stalling out several promising moves. However, he was effective in holding possession, keeping the ball moving around the center of the pitch for his team.

All of the Timbers' draft picks also remained with the team today. While Ben Polk has a contract with MLS -- and therefore the Timbers -- already, the rest of the rookie class is still unsigned and, if they join the team, will likely do so as members of T2. Additionally, other thank Polk, the rookies and T2 players -- Kharlton Belmar, Justin Luthy, and Akinjide Idowu -- were generally the odd men out in today's training session, spending most of it off to the side working with Cameron Knowles. For his part, Polk spent most of the day lined up on the left, looking somewhat lost in the position, but generally applying his athleticism well and putting in a good contribution on defense against Alvas Powell and Dairon Asprilla.

Injuries and Absences

Chris Klute was not on the field at training today, instead working out indoors as he continues his recovery from offseason meniscus surgery. According to Caleb Porter on Monday, Klute will be back in training in the next several days. Klute did take some time to speak to the press after training, conveying his desire to get more minutes than he did with Columbus where he felt he was always a depth piece, while also trying to show that he is one of the best left backs in the league.

Liam Ridgewell and Darlington Nagbe were the only other rostered players not on the pitch for the Timbers and, again, neither comes as a surprise. Ridgewell is expected to rejoin the team just before the Simple Invitational in late February, while Nagbe will join the team after the USMNT's matches against Iceland and Canada in the next two weeks.

Practice Notes

The finishing drills at the start of training for the midfielders and forwards revealed plenty about the way that some of the new arrivals like to hit their shots.

  • Ned Grabavoy had one of the nicer finishes of the morning when he chipped the ball over T2 keeper Justin Luthy, barely clearing the keeper but still giving him no chance to get to the ball. Most of Grabavoy's shot exhibited a similar level of finesse as he generally tried to place the ball with a side-footed strike, rather than going for power or trying to curve it around the keeper.
  • Jack McInerney -- was was the victim of a nutmeg from McInerney Grabavoy later in practice -- exhibited one of the heavier shots at practice, hitting downward curling balls that seem to beg to be spilled by whichever keeper he faces.
  • Michael Seaton, while not technically new, also stood out in the finishing and later in the scrimmages as a player with a strong ability to strike the ball. The moment that most stood out from him saw Seaton's shot saved, spilled, and bouncing back toward him, only to see Seaton set himself and slam the second chance into the back of the net on the volley.

There were several moments of note from established Timbers players as well.

Portland Timbers finishing. Will Conwell. 1/25/16

  • In the finishing drills, Diego Valeri received a pass on the ground, flicked it up into the air, and turned to fire off a volley before it could hit the ground again, skipping the ball off the turf and beating the keeper at the near post. Classic Valeri.
  • Dairon Asprilla also had a notable shot, although not in a good way; in one of the first attempts on goal of the morning, Asprilla struck a hard shot well wide of his target, sending the ball off course with enough power to hit the net that is set up behind the goal and knock it off it's post.
  • The best goal of the day, however, came later on from an increasingly less surprising source: Diego Chara's head. The move, which came in the full sided scrimmage that wrapped up practice, started with Diego Valeri getting the ball in the center of the pitch. Cutting back to free up space from his defender as he weighed his options, Valeri picked out a cutting pass for the run of Lucas Melano down the left flank. Getting to the ball in space, Melano had time to send in a high, chipped cross with his weaker left foot that non the less dropped directly into the path of Chara's run into the box. Literally leaping and squeezing between centerbacks Taylor Peay and Anthony Manning, Chara was able to get a nodded header down and on goal, sending the ball skipping just inside the near post for the score.