The last week of preseason training continued for the Portland Timbers today as the team ramps up to Sunday's season opener against the Columbus Crew. Working at the team's Beaverton training facility, the Timbers put in a long session, marking the continuation of the same weekly progression that the team went through in 2015.
Today's session got off to a simple start with the Timbers warming up through a classic seven on two rondo. With plenty of flicks, nutmegs, and other pieces of trickery on display, the mood was decidedly lighthearted to start the day.
The Timbers soon got serious as the rain began to pick up and the team transitioned to a six on three possession drill in a larger area. Emphasizing the spacing and positioning of the groups on the defensive side of the ball, there were a few standouts, with the group of Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, and Diego Valeri -- not surprisingly -- impressing on both sides of the ball.
Eventually the Timbers tweaked the drill, having the possessing team try to complete a set number of passes before playing a long ball to another group in order to score a point. The new twist saw the defenders forced to charge down the ball as it was played among the second group.
Rounding out the possession drills was an eight on eight plus two drill on a larger field of play. This one saw the pairings of Nagbe and Valeri and Chara and Fanendo Adi both do time as the "plus two" in the center of the pitch, facilitating the team's possession.
Finally, the Timbers finished out practice with a short field, eight on eight plus one match with keepers in goal. This time around it was just Valeri and Nagbe who took turns in the center of the pitch, running the attack.
The teams, as usual, were split into the Timbers' likely starters against the rest of the team.
With Dairon Asprilla out of training, recently signed rookie Neco Brett deputized with the starters, playing on the left flank while Lucas Melano shifted over to the right. For his part, Brett seemed comfortable on the pitch with the Timbers' regular first teamers and had several impressive moments of interchange with Adi at the top of the formation, although at times his spacing with his teammates was decidedly out of whack.
On the Timbers' second team, the connection between two groups of teammates were starting to stand out.
The veteran trio of Ned Grabavoy, Jack Jewsbury, and Ben Zemanski have now had several matches and plenty of practice together, and that familiarity was showing in today's practice. The second team's central midfielders managed the game and combined well with quick, simple strings of passes that on several occasions managed to carve their way through the center of the first team defense.
Also of note was the chemistry between Jack McInerney and Chris Klute. While Klute was certainly still showing some rust after having only recently rejoined the team for full practices, it was clear that he and McInerney were generally on the same page, only narrowly missing out on connecting on several curled in crosses from out on the flank.
Injuries and Absences
Chris Klute continued his time back in full training with the first team after his offseason meniscus repair and subsequent setbacks held him out for the first month of the season. While no specific timeline has been offered for Klute's return to match fitness, it seems likely that he should be back in the next two to three weeks.
Dairon Asprilla, who had his ankle rolled in Saturday's match against the Chicago Fire, was on the sidelines of practice today, working with the team's trainers. Yesterday, Caleb Porter told the press that he hopes Asprilla will be back in practice on Friday, following the team's midweek day off on Thursday. Affirming Porter's hopes today was a tweet from Merritt Paulson, saying "he will be fine" with regards to Asprilla.
Liam Ridgewell was not on the training pitch today, which is a concerning development after he was expected to make his return to training this morning following a series of calf issues that have bothered him since his last match on loan with Brighton & Hove Albion.
Nick Besler and Anthony Manning were both absent from practice today. It is likely that the pair trained with T2 later in the day.