BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers departed Thursday for a week-long, two-game road trip having received some good news and some bad as far as who will be available for selection.
First, the good news.
Defensive midfielder Diego Chara, who sat out the Timbers’ 3-3 draw over the weekend against the Columbus Crew with a broken hand, is back to full training, albeit while wearing a cast on his left hand, and head coach Caleb Porter said he would likely be available for Saturday’s matchup with the New York Red Bulls (7 pm ET; MLS Live).
This is despite a team announcement last week that Chara would be out two weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his fractured third metacarpal bone. Porter said Chara will be allowed to wear his cast as long as it’s padded.
Whether Chara plays against the Red Bulls will also have to do with how Porter chooses to manage his squad with three games looming in an eight-day span. He said they’d travel 22 players to New York because the team will head straight to Southern California for Wednesday’s Chivas USA matchup (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
“For us, it’s looking at the next game but also looking at the fact that we have three games in eight days,” Porter said. “So this is definitely a window where we have to be looking at how to manage these three games in eight days.”
Chara’s quick return is a welcome turn of events for Portland, considering the status of outside back Alvas Powell, who in playing for the injured Michael Harrington on Saturday was dealt a two-game suspension after seeing straight red for a harsh tackle against the Crew. Replacing the 19-year-old Powell in that game was Jorge Villafana, who will likely get the start against the Red Bulls with Harrington still working his way back from an ankle sprain.
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“I thought he did a nice job,” Porter said of Villafana. “Obviously, we know he’s a good player.”
Villafana was brought in during the offseason from Chivas USA for precisely this job, backing up Harrington, who led the club in minutes for outfield players last year. But his 47 minutes of action was his first for Portland as Porter has gone mostly with Powell as the in-game backup for Harrington and Jack Jewsbury.
“I know it’s been tough for him,” Porter said. “… It almost seems like he’s more outside of the mix than he is, but we certainly knew he was capable. And I thought he did a nice job.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.