The mindset has shifted slightly at Timbers practice. Since returning from Tucson, Caleb Porter has raised the intensity level in preparation for the Portland Timbers Preseason Tournament and the ever-closer season opener against New York.
“I would say we’ve just turned the screws up a little bit more this week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, those were hard days – we’re pushing it a little bit more than we have because it’s time for us to push a little bit more.”
The focus has now shifted from general training – fitness, passing, and basic tactical work – to a greater focus on getting the players prepared for games and the rigors of 90 minutes of competitive soccer. On Saturday the team for the first time looked to prepare for a particular opponent, as the Timbers went through a video session to start training, and appeared set to do tactical work before the media gaggle was shepherded down to the media room beneath the North End.
Porter praised the team’s mentality since returning from Tucson, saying, “You could see in the guys, too, their level of focus, concentration, and intensity was a notch higher, as it should be.”
Nonetheless, it is clear the Timbers have not decided on a formation or definite group of guys to play on March 3rd. “No, we’re still looking at things. I think we have a better sense now than we did prior to Arizona because we’ve seen guys in games. But we’re always going to kind of tinkering, if we need to. But like I just told the group that’s not starting [against San Jose], I want to have hopefully 18 guys who could be starters, and we make decisions based on what we think is best in that game. But it may be we rotate our group because a 34 game season means that we need to manage minutes for guys, we can’t be playing the same 11 every game.”
As such, Porter reported that the Timbers would start one group against San Jose, another group against Dallas, and then reevaluate for AIK. The group of nonstarters Porter referred to included the usual suspects, but also Jose Valencia, Futty Danso, and, perhaps notably, Ben Zemanski.
On the whole, it’s clear Porter has been pleased with the team’s consistency during training camp. “It’s a solid group. It’s a very solid group, and they’re very consistent. That makes me happy because I want a group that’s going to be consistent, where you know what you’re get every single day and every single game, and I think we have that in this group.”
The added intensity and consistency has Porter confident heading into the Preseason Tournament and the season at large. “You’re going to see a very solid performance, I think, game-in and game-out out of most of these guys.” In this same vein, Porter noted that “there’s a reason we kept those guys, you know, and a reason we didn’t keep some guys – because we wanted consistency.”
It’s starting to feel more like the regular season every day. Porter plans to only use three subs per game this week. The feeling I get is Sunday will feature close to a best eleven, while Wednesday will primarily be those who don’t play significant minutes on Sunday. Then, expect the Timbers to treat Saturday against AIK as a dress rehearsal for March 3rd.
It’s almost here.
Onward, Rose City!
 Though this probably has more to do with his recent arrival than Porter’s plans for him.