PORTLAND, Ore. – When Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer was asked after his team’s 1-0 loss Wednesday against La Liga side Valencia CF if anything could be extrapolated from the performance, his answer was typically blunt.
“Nothing whatsoever,” he said. “It has no relevance to the game on Saturday.”
But he did say there was one thing that could be taken away, and that was a good lesson in what top-shelf soccer looks like.
“It’s a tremendous learning experience for myself and the staff, and also the players,” Spencer said. “Everybody always thinks, from afar, that you can go coach in Europe, you can go and play in Europe. It’s a different level completely.”
Because the game was an exhibition, the statistics compiled didn’t include possession or passing numbers. But it was clear, Valencia conducted a clinic on European possession football.
A perfect example occurred leading up to Aritz Aduriz’s goal in the 41st minute, when Valencia held what looked to be a sustained passing drill around the Portland penalty area. Aduriz secured a pass at the top of the box, took one touch to maneuver around the Timbers defense and unleashed a missile past goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
“We got a real good introduction to European possession football – movement off the ball, movement from wide areas into inside channels to receive the ball,” Spencer said. “I think it shows when you don’t communicate and you ball watch, you can get picked off at the highest level and there was certainly some quality football played by [Valencia] in the first half.”
And, Spencer said, it would stand to reason that quality was everywhere in a Valencia jersey.
“They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on playing staff,” Spencer said.
Back to MLS
The Timbers may have their captain back on the field when they head into their first Cascadia match of the season Saturday against Vancouver (10 pm ET, TSN/RDS2 in Canada, MLS Live in US).
Jack Jewsbury, who missed last Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire after suffering a pelvic contusion May 15 against Houston, said after training Thursday that if he had to play that day he could.
“It’s definitely gotten better the last couple days,” Jewsbury said. “It’s really improved.”
Before missing the Chicago game, Jewsbury had started the previous two matches at right back after moving from his usual attacking midfield spot. Portland didn’t allow a goal in either game, both scoreless draws against Houston and Columbus.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.