Having arrived to an atypical away match location in Florida a week ago, the Portland Timbers are nearing their first game Monday against the LA Galaxy in the MLS is Back Tournament Group Stage, presented by Heineken (7:30pm PT, FS1, 750 The Game). Sequestered and quarantined inside the Swan and Dolphin hotel of the larger Walt Disney World resort in Orlando as well as training at the massive ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the team is beginning to adjust to the new routine and prepare accordingly.
For Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse, he’s feeling the players are well prepared ahead of the match.
“I think we’re getting there,” he said Thursday following an evening training session. “Obviously, getting into Florida a little bit earlier allowed us to acclimatize to the humidity, the heat. It’s been challenging the first few days, but I definitely feel that now we’re in a position to compete for 90 minutes…
“We’ve got a full squad, we’re ready to compete and we’re looking forward to it.”
The team took part in a spirited 11v11 intra-squad scrimmage last Monday in an effort to both prepare the team for a full-length game as well as begin the process of creating a match week-like feel. Once Monday’s game kicks off against the Galaxy, it will begin a busy stretch of three games in 11 days with Portland’s Group F play including the Houston Dynamo (July 18, 5pm PT, ESPN, 750 The Game) followed by Los Angeles FC (July 23, 7:30pm PT, ESPN2, 750 The Game).
With no fans in Orlando as well as numerous health and safety protocols in place around the entire league-designed “bubble” of the team’s hotel and sports complex, the environment is far from normal. But Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala believes that success in the tournament will come down to emphasizing the task at hand.
“A long as you have some adversity, and you’re trying to win, it always feels kind of normal,” he said. “The most important thing, I think, in this situation is to focus on ourselves and the only fact that we just want to get a result and a trophy.”
Building a new routine that you can rely on ahead of Monday's match against LA, even one that may feel uncommon given the uncommon surroundings, is something that Ebobisse stresses as well.
“Ultimately, we’re replicating a typical game week, [with] similar [training] loads throughout the week and recoveries so we should find some comfort and be ready to push it,” he said. “Because although it’s going to be our first competitive game in a few months, we need to act like it hasn’t been.
“We need to pick up right where we left off from that 1-0 win against Nashville [back in March].”