Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco is known for setting up his teammates for goals, but in Portland's 0-0 draw against Minnesota United at Providence Park on Sunday, he was the one getting the assist.
Deep into second-half stoppage time, Blanco found himself cramping up on the sideline. So, naturally, he called on the closest ball boy to play the role of impromptu trainer and stretch him out.
It was a fun little moment, but it actually speaks to a serious point regarding the Timbers, who have been scuffling to the tune of an 0-2-1 record over their last three MLS matches, all three of which have been played in the friendly confines of Providence Park. Part of the reason for those struggles has been injuries, with Blanco among a handful of key contributors that have missed time in recent weeks, along with striker Brian Fernandez.
The team has been dealing with a lot of fixture congestion during that stretch and a lack of bodies to accommodate it, but with Blanco returning to the fold, Timbers head coach Gio Savarese said he feels like the team is getting there in terms of getting all hands on deck as they look to lock down a Western Conference playoff spot.
"It's the schedule that we have," Savarese said after Sunday's match. "With the schedule that we have had this year and the injuries we have had, we have guys playing multiple, I mean a lot of games, consecutive matches, and it gets to a moment in which you see they're getting tired. A guy like [Diego] Chara, the amount of minutes that he's been putting in.
"And it's not only about the minutes, it's the intensity. What else can I ask from them? It's just about to continuing to believe in ourselves. Now that we're getting, as I said, a few guys back, now we can make some rotations. Get guys a little fresher on the field and continue to believe in ourselves."
As for the club's prospective new trainer, there's no word on who the ball boy is, but that can't possibly have been part of the job description when he was hired for the role. Give the kid a raise.