PORTLAND, Ore. – For Portland Timbers manager John Spencer, Wednesday’s friendly against La Liga’s Valencia CF at JELD-WEN Field (10:30 pm ET, LIVE CHAT on portlandtimbers.com) couldn’t come at a better time.
A number of Timbers starters and key reserves are just rounding back into full health, and they need minutes.
“We’ve got to be smart,” Spencer said. “You don’t want to devalue the game at all. We’re paying a lot of money to bring them in, and the fans are paying a lot of money to come watch the game. For us, we’re going to approach the game like any other game. We’re going to go and try to win it.”
And that effort will likely include players like defender David Horst and midfielders Kalif Alhassan and Sal Zizzo.
Alhassan kicked off the season as a starting wing midfielder, but he has been out with a knee injury since the Timbers' 3-1 loss on April 14 against the LA Galaxy. Zizzo has been slowly emerging from an Achilles injury that has kept him sidelined for most of the season; he’s subbed on in Portland’s last two games.
Horst has yet to play this year after offseason hip surgery.
WATCH: Horst eyeing season debut
“We’re getting to see the nucleus of the club coming back healthy," Spencer said. "We feel stronger and more confident. So for me, the more games we get for guys like Sal, Kalif and David Horst the better.”
Player considerations aside, Spencer also recognizes the unique opportunity to face an elite club like Valencia, the 2004 La Liga champions and a regular in the UEFA Champions League.
“These games are great, to be honest with you,” Spencer said. “Who wouldn’t want to suit up and play against a team that’s going to play in the Champions League next year? They’re a top, top Spanish team, one of the top European teams. I think it’s a great game to play in as a player. I think it’s something you should look forward to.”
Spencer said he plans to field a starting XI in the first half before subbing on reserves as the game progresses. He said he’ll have Saturday’s MLS game against Vancouver in the back of his mind. It's the first Cascadia game of the season for the Timbers.
“With a big game coming up against Vancouver at the weekend," he said, "we need to try to be smart with the squad and the minutes that we’re giving."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.