Timbers complete first week of training

The Portland Timbers finally got to kick around the soccer ball this past week and took their first steps on the field toward the team’s 2011 MLS regular season debut on March 19.

The Portland Timbers finally got to kick around the soccer ball this past week and took their first steps on the field toward the team’s 2011 MLS regular season debut on March 19. The team was allowed to train at the Adidas Headquarters in north Portland in preparation for upcoming exhibition games against Ventura County on Friday and the LA Galaxy on Feb. 8.

For the most part, Head coach John Spencer kept the ball work to a minimum and had the team focus on conditioning, including sprinting drills, stretching and even a little bit of yoga.

“This is the side of the game you don’t like doing as a player or as a coach,” Spencer said. “You just want to get the balls out and start playing. But you must do it, get the fitness base and put the hard work in so it serves you for the rest of the season.”

The franchise’s first-ever draft pick in the MLS SuperDraft, No. 2 overall selection Darlington Nagbe, echoed his coach’s assessment.

“I’m excited to get the soccer balls out, but know we have to do things the right way,” the speedy and skillful midfielder said.

However, since many of the players were meeting each other for the first time, much of the emphasis was on building early team-chemistry and simply allowing the players to get to know their new teammates.

“Building chemistry early on is massive,” said Spencer. “If you look at the good teams, they all have that in the locker room, and it reflects well on to the field.”

“It’ll take a good month until we become a team together,” midfielder Ryan Pore estimated. Pore led the Timbers with 15 goals and five assists last year in Division-2, and won the league’s Golden Boot for most goals scored in 2010. As one of the handful of returning players who’s already familiar with Portland and its unique soccer community, Pore has spent time helping his new teammates acclimate to their new surroundings.

“Any time a guy gets situated and starts to feel comfortable, that’s when they play their best,” Pore said.

The Timbers received their first taste of the upcoming media frenzy as a small horde of local media was in attendance to cover the team’s first training session. Still, the atmosphere was light and jovial all week, and it’s clear that the players and the coaches are just as excited as the fans to get the season into full gear.

“It feels great to put these colors on,” defender Jeremy Hall said as he fashioned the Timbers’ brand-new uniforms. “I can’t wait for that first [home] game, being in a packed stadium with the Timbers Army jumping around.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to play; I just can’t wait for the season to begin,” forward Bright Dike said. Dike is returning to the Timbers from last season, and where he scored 10 goals in 23 matches.

Currently, the Timbers have 23 players officially on their roster and are expected bring in a few more in the following weeks. Last week, owner Merritt Paulson signed goalkeeper Adin Brown and defender Steve Purdy, both players returning from last season’s roster. The team has also been rumored to be close to finalizing a deal with a big-name free agent.

Despite the recent announcement of a new community-oriented training facility to be built in Beaverton, the Timbers are still without a home field, with renovations to PGE Park not scheduled for completion until April. In the meantime, Portland will get the official preseason camp started this week in Ventura, Calif., before taking on Ventura County Friday and the LA Galaxy on Monday.

Editor’s note: To keep up-to-date with the latest Timbers news, read more of Kevin’s writing at www.droppingtimber.com. ?