PORTLAND, Ore. – John Spencer has preached professionalism since day one of the Portland Timbers' inaugural season.
So it’s no surprise that he’s keeping that approach now that the season is over. Spencer is continuing the team’s training until the entire league is done after the MLS Cup – despite having nothing to play for until next season comes around.
“The season has ended too early for us and just keeping the guys taken over [is good], I think,” Spencer said during the team’s first offseason training session Tuesday. “If you finish up now, by the time you start up again late in January, it’s just too long a break.”
The Timbers were eliminated from the playoffs before their season finale last Saturday against Real Salt Lake when New York beat Philadelphia last week to secure the 10th and final spot. The team’s disappointment was palpable at training on a cold, gray morning at JELD-WEN Field.
Spencer said they’ll maintain a schedule similar to a typical regular-season week, while bringing in a number of trialists. He did say the sessions would probably not last quite as long, however.
“The teams, the successful ones, are training up until the MLS Cup,” Spencer said. “And lucky them guys. I just think the season ended too prematurely for me.”
Midfielder and team captain Jack Jewsbury said he had experienced some variations of offseason training sessions during his eight years with Sporting KC. Spring training for MLS teams begins in late January.
“The reality of it is, these teams that are in the playoffs still continue to get good work in,” Jewsbury said. “I think it makes sense to stay around a little bit and make sure we stay sharp to shorten up that off season a little bit and make sure guys stay as fit as they can.”
Jewsbury said it will be a challenge to stay sharp without a game looming.
“Obviously I think everyone in the locker room is still disappointed that the season is still not going on,” Jewsbury said. “We have to be professional about the approach every day coming back here for training for a few weeks.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.