Preseason Notebook: Camp hits halfway point

Spencer: "Guys have been great since Day 1"

Casa Grande Day 5

Photo Credit: 
Portland Timbers

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – As the Timbers moved past the midway point of their eight-week preseason schedule – and their 10-day camp at Grande Sports World – head coach John Spencer praised the effort of his first-year MLS club through the first month of training.

“I can’t complain,” Spencer said. “These guys have been great from Day 1 to now, giving everything they have. I am really happy for them.”

In competition, the Timbers have earned three draws against three preseason opponents, including the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo. And above that, Spencer and his staff have been pleased with the intensity and attitude of the team during training sessions.

Spencer made no mistake that he was impressed by his players against Houston on Saturday, especially considering the less-than-ideal conditions created by a sand storm that at some points made it difficult to even see across the field. The Dynamo, Spencer’s former team, came into the scrimmage having outscored their opponents 13-3 in four preseason wins over the likes of MLS clubs FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and Columbus.

Looking forward to Wednesday’s match against the Montreal Impact, Spencer plans to feature players that were slated to play Saturday afternoon against the U.S. U-18 National Team in a scrimmage that was canceled due to the conditions. With two games in mind, the Timbers were split into two teams Saturday with limited subs utilized in the Dynamo game as a result.

“We’re going to give guys that were meant to play against the U-18 National Team the other day a chance to get a look,” said Spencer.

Away from the training fields at Grande Sports World, the Timbers have used their current trip to further strengthen team camaraderie and communication. Veteran MLS goalkeeper Adin Brown says this plays a big part in laying the foundation for a successful season.

“We’ve got a really good group here, and it’s been important for us to be together,” Brown said. “We’ve had some fun with each other…and that’s a big part of a team. If guys are that close, you’re willing to fight for each other on the field, and that just makes the team a whole lot better.”

And as standard ritual, rookies have been put to the test a bit through a number of good-natured rites of passage. Yet, Brown says these rituals are pretty tame compared to his first-year experience.

“These rookies these days have it so easy,” Brown smiled.

Timbers to Coach: ‘Guilty as charged’
As it turns out, no one is safe from a bit of good-natured discipline in Timbers camp.

Not even the coaches.

With much to be gained in terms of team bonding during extended time together in Casa Grande, Spencer abruptly interrupted a team dinner over the weekend to address concerns that one member of the group had “put himself on an island” in terms of adhering to team protocol.

A multitude of charges were brought forth by a smiling Spencer, much to the amusement of the more than 30 team members and support staff in attendance.

The charges were numerous, and included unauthorized use of a communication device at the dinner table, slight tardiness and a recent fashion violation.

The accused – goalkeeper coach Adam Smith.

The overwhelming verdict of the amused team – guilty of all charges, of course.

With midfielder Adam Moffat heading up a 28-man jury of Timbers players, the decision was reached in record time, even as Smith presented a passionate defense and scrambled for corroborating witnesses.

And the sentence as defined by Smith’s group of peers? The Portland goalkeeper coach is to grow a mustache not be shaved off before Sunday, March 20, the day after the team’s much-anticipated, inaugural-season opener against the defending-champion Colorado Rapids. Yet another rallying point for a team looking forward to such an historic match.

Smith was given the opportunity to present a 90-second appeal, but safe to say no minds were changed. Plus, it was difficult to hear at times with chants of “mustache! mustache!” echoing throughout the dining hall.

One night later, strength and conditioning coach Karim Derqaoui was added to the now-famed “mustache list,” after allegations of intentionally running the team too hard in training with insider knowledge of French fries being featured on the team buffet later that evening.

Notes:

- Trialist Brian Umony rejoined the Timbers on Monday, giving the team 30 players currently in camp

- Wednesday’s scrimmage against Montreal has been moved to 3 p.m. (PT)

- The Timbers will conduct a morning and an early evening training session Tuesday