Portland Timbers dealing with key injury questions, but coach Caleb Porter remains tight-lipped
PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s the question everybody following the Portland Timbers has wanted an answer to: Just how injured are they right now?
Captain and midfielder Will Johnson, defender/midfielder Jack Jewsbury, forward Frederic Piquionne, all key pieces for the Timbers’ stretch run in the deadlocked Western Conference, are all listed as questionable on the team’s injury report.
And after training Friday at JELD-WEN Field, head coach Caleb Porter, predictably, didn’t offer any additional insight into their status for Saturday’s game against FC Dallas (11 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
“Day to day,” Porter said. “We have a lot of guys who are day to day.”
Despite Porter's reluctance to discuss the details regarding his injured players, he knows holding his proverbial cards close to the chest is necessary, especially during such a tight battle in the West.
“As much as we’re painting the uncertainty to you guys, there’s not uncertainty,” Porter said. “We know exactly what guys are doing and where everyone is at. So you’ll see when the game kicks off, or an hour before, what we’re doing. There’s no uncertainty. I’m not a guy who likes to wait until the last minute to do anything. You kind of get a sense when you get this close of where you’re at.”
Johnson, of course, is the most important piece of the puzzle.
The midfielder has not trained all week after suffering a shoulder injury in the Timbers’ US Open Cup semifinal match last week against Real Salt Lake. In the only two games Johnson has missed this season, due to international team duty, the Timbers lost to Columbus and beat the LA Galaxy with Ben Zemanski taking his place.
“This game, we have some injuries that we need to manage and deal with, but there’s probably not a whole lot of surprises because you’ve seen by now a bit of a rhythm of if one guy is out the next guy is coming in,” Porter said. “At this point, I don’t think there are many secrets. It’s about execution and about doing what you do well and doing it better than the opponent.”
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Both Jewsbury and Piquionne picked up ankle injuries in Portland’s Aug. 8 game against Vancouver. Porter showed he’s not shy about using 19-year-old Jamaican Alvas Powell at right back, where Jewsbury has played most of the season. And at forward, Porter will still have the services of Rodney Wallace, Darlington Nagbe and Ryan Johnson.
Porter reiterated his point that no matter who is on the field, the style of play will remain the same.
“In terms of the way we play, no, obviously we’ve proven to be pretty consistent,” he said. “In terms of the personnel and the little rotations and how we step and defend, there could be some wrinkles. … I think you’ve seen a lot of continuity in what we do from game to game, but you’ve also seen, in almost every game, a little twist.”
Dan Itel covers the Portland Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.