Steve Zakuani back at training ahead of Portland Timbers weekend clash vs. Houston Dynamo

Zakuani nears return, Nanchoff made first 2014 appearance against RSL

BEAVERTON, Ore. – Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter has made it clear: the overarching theme behind his team’s struggles this season has been finishing, or lack thereof.

With just seven goals scored by Timbers players through the first seven games of the season, Porter would certainly like to have a full slate of attacking players at his disposal heading into Sunday’s road game against the Houston Dynamo (12 pm PT; KPTV). One player who could be back in the mix is Steve Zakuani, who was back in training this week after being left off the 18 the past two weeks with what Porter called “tightness.”

The Timbers are set to depart Friday for Houston, and Porter said Zakuani would travel with the team.

“We want to have a couple days with him to decide whether or not he’ll be available,” Porter said Thursday at the team’s training facility.

Zakuani, the former Seattle Sounders attacker who came to Portland over the offseason, has been working his way back to full health after sports hernia surgery last year. He’s started just one game for the Timbers and made four appearances this season.

Another player Porter could turn to for a spark is midfielder Michael Nanchoff, who made his first appearance of the season last week in Portland’s 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. The 13-minute shift that Porter said went “well” was Nanchoff’s first action with the first team since July of last year before he was sent on loan to Swedish club Jönköpings Södra IF for the remainder of the season.

“He’s played really well in training,” Porter said of Nanchoff. “Obviously, he went on the loan last year and had a really good experience and he’s just been really good in training every single day. There’s no coincidence that he did well in the game because he was doing well in training, which is why I put him in the game.”

Porter also said that forward Frederic Piquionne, who was not in the 18 last weekend, has left the team to attend to a family matter in his native Martinique and would likely not return ahead of the Houston game.

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.