PORTLAND, Ore. – With the break over and the Portland Timbers’ three international players expected back Wednesday or Thursday, the club is finally turning full focus to the MLS season’s final stretch.
And the sooner the Timbers can get back on the pitch to erase from their memories their last game – a humbling 3-0 loss to their bitter rivals, the Seattle Sounders on Oct. 7 – the better. They have another Cascadia match Sunday on the road against Vancouver before ending the season at home Oct. 27 against San Jose.
“It would be nice to come back after that disappointing Seattle game and play Vancouver immediately, but I think it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds,” interim head coach and general manager Gavin Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said having players gone on international duty – part-time starting midfielders Lovel Palmer and Rodney Wallace and reserve defender Steve Purdy – is a bit of an anchor on preparations. But after the weekend off for the rest of the club, Wilkinson said players looked sharp and focused in Monday and Tuesday’s training sessions.
“We’ve not had any issues, which is tremendous,” he said. “They’ve been tremendous professionals.”
Defender David Horst said last week was about getting right physically. This week, he said, is about putting all their efforts into getting a good result in Vancouver. The Timbers can still win the Cascadia Cup, the supporter-sponsored trophy awarded to the best Pacific Northwest club, with a win against the Whitecaps.
“We’ve got to get over it,” Horst said of the Seattle loss. “We know it was a bad loss. We still have another chance to win the Cascadia Cup in Vancouver. We have to have a short memory and be professionals and move on and get ready for Vancouver.”
He said there’s a different feel among the team this week as opposed to the preparations leading up to the Seattle loss. He said everyone on the team is still well aware of the importance of ending their dismal season on a high note and said players seem more serious heading into the final two weeks.
“I think guys’ heads are a little bit better this time,” Horst said. “I think guys just thought they’d just go out there and get up and play for that [Seattle] game. It doesn’t always work that way. We have to prepare mentally and physically away from the field, and I think guys are doing that a little bit better this week.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.