PORTLAND, Ore. – A lot has been made of the Portland Timbers' ability to stay sharp in their offseason training sessions.
After all, the MLS Cup Playoffs rage on and Portland remain without a ticket to the dance, and therefore no games for the club in the foreseeable future. But for the Timbers' three international call-ups — defender Steve Purdy (El Salvador), forward Brian Umony (Uganda) and midfielder James Marcelin (Haiti) — there shouldn't be any problem with motivation as Portland continue to practice through the end of the postseason.
“It’s always a little tough because of the offseason and all that,” Purdy said of head coach John Spencer’s continued training sessions in the two weeks since Portland finished their season with a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake on Oct. 22. “The national team coach, they’ve communicated that I’m going to come in for these next couple games. So I already knew that in my head, and I just told myself that I need to be prepared for that. So I’ve just used all these trainings in the offseason to make sure I’m as sharp as I can be.”
Purdy left Portland on Friday to join El Salvador for two upcoming World Cup qualification matches against Suriname. La Selecta play in Paramaribo on Nov. 11 before hosting the Suriboys in San Salvador on Nov. 15. El Salvador need only one point from those two contests to secure a place in the next round of qualifying.
“Representing El Salvador, whenever I have a chance to go and play, especially in a World Cup qualification, is an honor,” said Purdy, who has family ties to El Salvador but was born in Bakersfield, Calif. “The coaches have been really pleased with my play and everything and have told me I’m a big part of the team.”
It’s the fourth call-up of 2011 for Purdy, who earned his second cap and scored his first international goal in a 4-0 win over the Cayman Islands on Oct. 11.
“I’m lucky I play for the Timbers, and I feel like we have the best fans in America,” he said. “They help you out, they bring a lot of energy and a lot of passion to all the games. Same thing with El Salvador, we have very passionate fans. … It’s a big thing to play for El Salvador. The whole country pretty much watches the games. So I just feed off that energy too.
Continued Purdy: "Whenever you represent a country there is obviously a little bit more too because you’re representing a culture and representing a people. I’ve been lucky with both the teams I play for right now; their fans are just so passionate.”
Marcelin will also play in two World Cup qualifying matches, first against Antigua on Nov. 11 in St. John and then in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 15. It’s Marcelin’s fourth World Cup qualifying call-up with Haiti in 2011.
Umony will join Uganda for the Nation LG Cup, a four-nation tournament from Nov. 11 through Nov. 13 in Morocco. Umony has eight goals in 12 international matches with the Cranes, most recently in a 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifier Oct. 8 against Kenya.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.