Timbers focused as preseason nears end
PORTLAND, Ore.— Don’t expect the Portland Timbers to take a relaxed approach to the remaining sessions of preseason training, even after maintaining an unbeaten record with a win and a draw at the Cascadia Summit in Tukwila, Wash., last weekend.
With just one preseason match remaining on the schedule — Saturday versus the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University — Timbers head coach John Spencer is aiming to keep the energy at a high level during training.
Such was the case throughout training sessions during the early part of the week as the team worked on fitness, close-quarters possession and went 11-on-11 at a vigorous pace for much of the time.
“Keep the intensity high,” Spencer said following the week’s first training session. “Every week is almost like climbing another mountain.”
While Portland displayed an encouraging level of match fitness during Friday’s 2-0 win over Seattle and a 1-1 draw on Saturday with Vancouver, Spencer added that the onus is on the squad to maintain that degree of physical, as well as mental, preparation “from Week 1 to Week 34” of the season.
Following the conclusion of Saturday’s preseason contest, the season-opening match with reigning MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids commences in just one week’s time on March 19.
“I think we’re all chomping at the bit to get on the field,” Timbers defender Eric Brunner said.
Brunner, who made 14 appearances with the Columbus Crew in 2010, started and played the full 90 minutes of Friday’s win over Seattle. The Dublin, Ohio, native was part of a staunch Timbers back line that helped keep several Sounders FC players from converting scoring chances in what was many players’ first experience with a charged preseason atmosphere.
That sound effort continually brought forth by the Timbers is one of several reasons Spencer said Portland has been hard to beat during the preseason and is also important to sustain as players jockey for roster spots and possible starting positions.
“(We have to keep) doing the things we need to do,” Spencer said of preparing this week, adding that he is taking a day-to-day approach in assessing the team’s trajectory as the regular season inches closer.
“I think we’re still trying to improve on our game, fixing problems we saw (against Seattle and Vancouver),” said midfielder Ryan Pore, who netted a fifth-minute goal against Whitecaps FC on Saturday.
There is still work to be done as preseason training starts to wind down and don’t presume the Timbers will go about it listlessly.