For Porter, first preseason match goes according to plan
In the first week of training, Caleb Porter spoke of a very specific plan for how the Portland Timbers progress in the two months before the start of the regular season.
If Monday’s results are any indication, so far the plan is going smoothly.
The Timbers showed flashes of brilliance Tuesday in a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids in both teams’ opening game of the Desert Friendlies at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
WATCH: Porter talks about the preseason win
“What I was looking for, mostly, was progress,” Porter said. “We had eight days to train and we have focused on certain things – every day is a building block. And this was another building block. We wanted to see that there was a positive performance based on our good preparation leading into the game, and I thought, overall, we saw that.”
The Timbers left the Rose City after a week of training hoping the nearly two-week trip that will include four preseason games willhelp the team – consisting of a number of newcomers – come together quickly. After Tuesday’s game, Porter said he’s already seeing that among some of the players he’s expecting big things from.
Newly acquired Designated Player Diego Valeri started the scoring with a curling free-kick goal in the 28th minute. The overall play among Valeri and forwards Darlington Nagbe and Ryan Johnson was a positive sign, Porter said.
“In the first half, I thought there were some really nice three or four attacking sequences that we put together, where we could have got goals, but didn’t,” Porter said. “But for me, that’s a positive. … So that was interesting to see, that Nagbe, Ryan [Johnson], Valeri some of these guys have already started to form a relationship, a partnership, and how they link together.”
Porter also has to be pleased with the performance of Jose Valencia. The 21-year-old Colombian is coming off a season missed entirely due to knee surgery after he was initially signed as a Young Designated Player.
In the second half, Valencia, no longer a DP and seeing his first game action with the first team, teamed up with midfielder Kalif Alhassan to make Portland’s lead 2-0 in the 64th minute. In traffic, Valencia laid the ball off to Alhassan, whose sharply struck shot beat Rapids goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. Valencia added on in the 80th minute with a goal of his own.
“What’s great about it is, we can use this now as a measuring stick and we can look at trends, we can look at things we need to continue to do well and can continue to reinforce,” Porter said. “We can also look at things we need to correct, and that will be the basis of training moving forward.”
In all, Porter played 23 players and said it’s hard to equate the strong performance to an actual regular-season game. He said the camp-like setting in Tucson will presumably help accelerate the learning curve.
“It allows us to be together a bit more, which is always good to form your group,” Porter said. “Very good setup here, professional. We are working out of a locker room, so it’s like at home. We come over, we dress, we come out to the pitch. It’s a great set-up, for us it makes a lot of sense to be here, real happy to be here.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.