Today's Portland Timbers practice session, held at the team's Beaverton training facility, was the team's typical post-game regeneration session with the starters from Sunday's win over the LA Galaxy spending most of the day indoors while the rest of the team went through a short but intense session out on the training pitch. Still, there was plenty of news coming out of practice as the Timbers head into their final match of the regular season this weekend against the Colorado Rapids, some of it good and some of it bad.
First, the bad news: Diego Valeri is out for this Sunday's match. He isn't injured and will be back when the Timbers make the playoffs official (everyone please take a moment to knock on wood as you read this); instead, Valeri managed to pick up a mostly unseen yellow card late in the match against LA, causing him to be suspended for accumulation. You can read more about it in the link above.
Ok, enough of that. Let's aim for a few paragraphs of good news.
First, Alvas Powell was fully participating in training today and looks like he is on track to be back and ready to go for the Timbers' match against the Rapids following some concern at a knock that he took against Real Salt Lake last Wednesday.
Will Johnson was also back in full training today as he continued his recovery from minor surgery to remove two screws from the leg he broke last year. While Johnson still has a ways to go as he works his way back to full fitness following four weeks out of full training, this is definitely a positive step for the team captain.
There was also good news for the club captain, Jack Jewsbury, who was on the sidelines of training today. Word around practice is that Captain Jack is targeting a Friday return to full training which could potentially see him back in time for this weekend's match.
Finally, while not news per se, there were plenty of good things being said about the original Diego, Diego Chara. After putting in two solid performances as the Timbers' lone holding midfielder in a single pivot system, there was plenty of praise to be had for Chara as Jorge Villafana, Fanendo Adi, and Caleb Porter all talked about him in the post-practice press scrums. Porter, after admitting that there were some initial doubts about how Chara's game would adapt to a single pivot system, told the press that the coaches tried to simplify his role only to see him exceed all of their expectations for him at the center of the Timbers' formation.
With today's practice session open to the press, there were also some moments worth highlighting on the pitch. The majority of the day was spent running a 7v7 short field match with keepers in goal that pitted the Timbers' bench players against the group of players that spent the majority of the year with T2 (plus Cameron Knowles, stepping in as a right back to fill in the numbers). While the T2 players controlled much of the match in the early going, once their initial burst wore off, it was the bench players, lead by Maximiliano Urruti up top and Norberto Paparatto at the back, who dominated the game.
For much of a match both teams played to a stalemate, stymied by the strong defensive efforts of Paparatto and Jake Gleeson on one side and Anthony Manning and Andrew Weber on the other. Eventually, however, the bench players broke through thanks to a thunderbolt from George Fochive out of the center of the pitch. Finding a rare bit of space in the center of the pitch (made even more of a hot commodity in the close confines of this match), Fochive took a touch before hammering a shot into the upper ninety of the net, blowing through the attempted diving save of Weber.
Goals continued to be scarce in the match, but of course Urruti managed to get on the board once and make the practice report highlight. Taking the ball down out wide on the left, Urruti touched the ball around first one defender then another as he cut into the center of the pitch, traveling parallel to the goal mouth before finding the inch of space needed to pull a shot back across the face of the goal and just inside the far post.