One week into the 2013 preseason, and the tone of Timbers practice is already beginning to change. The exuberance of the first practice session on Monday has faded somewhat; replaced by a sense that the team’s potential is matched by the great deal of work it has to do between now and March 3rd. Nonetheless, one week in, Caleb Porter is clearly very pleased with the team’s work ethic and fitness.
The Timbers opened practice with its typical warm-up session. Unlike pregame warm-ups, which typically constitute stretching, passing, and a modest set of drills in the northeast corner, pre-practice warm-ups covered most of the width of the field on the north side. The drills themselves are also more dynamic, concluding with a set of running pace-change drills to alternating cones. And nobody asks Kalif to put his hands up.
As Caleb Porter said after practice, the focus shifted on Saturday to the high-pressure defensive scheme so much ink has already been spilled over. After warm-ups and a set of two-man passing drills, the Timbers broke into the games of keep away that would consume much of the training session.
Beginning with six small square games of four-on-two keep away, Porter blew his whistle every few minutes to add a wrinkle to the game. Eventually, the six groups were merged into two, which were still split into three teams. One team would be on offense in each box, with the third team split defensively between the two boxes. If the offensive team completed six passes, they could send the ball to the team in the other box. If they gave up the ball, however, they became the defensive team.
Again, however, Porter threw wrinkles into the game, until finally the two groups were playing eight-on-four games spanning much of the width of the field. Again, the players were split into three different colored teams, with two teams on offense and one on defense. Whenever the offensive team would turn the ball over, the offending player’s team would rotate into the middle and play defense.
When the keep away games finally ended, the team was split into teams for modified eight v. eight short field games on the north side of the field. As they often do, they played with modified scoring scheme where a goal counts for two points and six consecutive completed passes count for one.
Darlington Nagbe drew a tough assignment for his skill set, lined up on the left wing for much of the day. Despite his lack of left foot, Nagbe did well using his speed and showing a little bit of impressive quick passing for January. Nagbe’s efforts were rewarded in the last game of the day, as he got loose on the left and blasted a shot past Jake Gleeson inside the far post.
Young Colombians Sebastian Rincon and Jose Valencia also shone during the eight v. eight sessions. Trencito, in particular, is starting to look more comfortable, and today began putting his considerable size and speed to good use.
The Timbers depart for Tucson on Sunday for a four game, twelve-day training camp. Portland will put its perfect preseason record to the test for the first time in 2013 on Tuesday.
- After practice, Porter sounded very pleased with the team’s fitness and work ethic in the first week of practice. Caleb indicated that the team was further along than he expected at this point, and called the team’s fitness “tremendous”.
- Porter was also pleased with the team’s approach to Saturday’s defensive session, saying “It was a hard session, and they worked their asses off the entire time.”
- One theme that has come out of interviews in the first week is using the Timbers’ recent past as a motivator. Porter brought it up again today, saying that the good work ethic in the first week “shows that the guys that were here – that are back here – are dissatisfied with the past and want to make amends.”
- Porter indicated that the four games in Tucson would allow him to test out a couple different schemes and hopefully return to Portland with a better idea of what the team will run.
- As for the games in Tucson, Porter said that some would have three 45-minute halves. As is to be expected, many, if not most players still need more fitness work before they’re ready to play a full game. Accordingly, don’t be surprised to see a lot of players get time on the field – especially in the first few games in Tucson.
- Finally, Porter said Hanyer Mosquera will return from a knee injury shortly. Brent Richards, however, went down with an apparent knee injury during practice. No update was immediately available.
- Although such plans are notorious for being subject to change, as of right now it appears MLS will stream every game in Tucson.
Onward, Rose City!