The Portland Timbers practiced at the team's Beaverton training facility today, continuing their preparations for the first home game of the preseason: Sunday's Simple Invitational opener against
the Chicago Fire Minnesota United.
After having the day off on Thursday, the Timbers were back at full speed today, splitting the team into two groups of attacking and defending players for most of the session.
In the early going the attacking group, which included Ben Zemanski but not Diego Chara or Jack Jewsbury, worked through a series of increasing complex passing sequences -- a Caleb Porter staple -- that ended with a shot on goal. The defensive group, meanwhile, ran a five on four drill that saw the second team defenders, supplemented by Kharlton Belmar, sending in crosses and passes for the first choice defenders to contest.
Next up the Timbers switched to a half-field match that saw an attacking side trying to score on goal while a defending group attempted to clear the ball down the pitch to a target forward and break out of the half.
Klute Takes Another Step Forward
Defender Chris Klute took another step forward today, participating in training for the first time this season. Previously Klute had been limited to warming up with the team and working out with the team trainers on the sidelines.
Despite getting into today's training session Klute is still not fit to play, Porter told the press after training wrapped up. While Klute was on the field with the rest of the team, he did not fully participate and seems to have steps to take before he is considered match fit. Porter did confirm that at this point Klute could be ruled out of playing in Sunday's match.
Timbers designated player center back and captain Liam Ridgewell was back in training today after returning from his offseason loan to Brighton & Hove Albion. Playing alongside Nat Borchers in the center of the pitch, the Timbers' go-to center backs looked to have taken up about where the pairing had left off following the MLS Cup.
Asked about the possibility of playing left back for the Timbers, given the team's current uncertainty at the position, Ridgewell told the press that he preferred to play center back but that he would play wherever the team needs him.
Also asked about that possibility, Porter pointed out that Ridgewell has played more games at left back than center back over the last few years, despite being deployed in the center by the Timbers. He also pointed out that Jermaine Taylor lined up at left back for the Houston Dynamo last season and has played at left back for the Jamaican Men's National Team. Taylor spent most of today's training session at left back on a defensive line that also contained Ridgewell, Borchers, and Alvas Powell.
Trialists and Guest Players
T2 player Kharlton Belmar trained with the first team today.
The same mystery keeper from earlier in the week, as well as T2 training on Wednesday, was also with the team today, although Justin Luthy was not on hand for first team practice.
Injuries and Absences
Other than Klute there did not appear to be any injury-related absences from first team training today.
However, there were a number of players who were not on hand, presumably absent to train with T2 later in the day. None of the Timbers' draftees were on hand today, nor were Andrew Thoma, Anthony Manning, and Taylor Peay.
Both Fanendo Adi and Jack McInerney were burying their chances today during the attacking group's finishing drills. While both players were sharp, McInerney's workmanlike finishing -- consistently making solid contact with the ball whether on the ground, on the volley, or on his head -- was definitely notable.
While McInerney was consistent in his finishing, there were several unique finishes from some of the other Timbers. Zemanski in particular had one very notable finish, hitting a left footed curler with pace that just tucked into the upper ninety of the goal from the top of the box.