BY MIKE DONOVAN
BEAVERTON, Ore.- When asked by a reporter this week if he has ever been around a team with so many injuries, head coach Caleb Porter replied with a simple “probably not.”
While every team faces injuries throughout the season, the Timbers are currently faced with the reality of having nearly a third of their 30-man roster dealing with injuries. Add international callups and suspensions to the mix and it seems Portland might struggle to find 18 players for their upcoming Saturday match with Toronto FC.
“It’s challenging, but we can’t do anything about the guys who are out,” Porter said. “I quickly just turn my focus to the guys who are in.”
The latest injury occurred in Friday’s 4-2 loss at Real Salt Lake when Argentine DP Diego Valeri had to be removed from the match after sustaining an adductor injury. While Porter is holding out hope that Valeri will be able to take the field Saturday, it seems unlikely.
“I hope that he will be (ready), but I think it’s probably 50-50 at this point and that’s probably pushing it to be honest with you,” Porter said, before adding that Jack Jewsbury and Frederic Piquionne are also probably “50-50” at best for Saturday.
On Monday, it was also announced that Ryan Miller, who had made seven appearances in 2013, will miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his leg. The 28-year-old outside back was signed from Swedish side Halmstads BK in the offseason and provided much-needed depth at the fullback position.
“I don’t dwell on it, because there is nothing you can do about it,” Porter said. “I could sit around my office all day long and bang my head against the wall and think about “wow, we’re in a tough situation,” but I move on from adversity quickly because it is what it is and I’ve dealt with it for the last 13 years of coaching.”
Will Johnson, who has missed the club’s last four matches, has returned for full training and is hopeful of a Saturday return. Ben Zemanski, who has started for Johnson, is suspended for the TFC match due to the red card he received against RSL.
The club is also hoping that Bright Dike, David Horst, and Futty Danso will be able to return to action with the first team soon after playing for the reserves Saturday against RSL’s second side. Dike tore the ACL in his left knee during the preseason and could provide the Timbers with some much needed depth at forward. Horst, meanwhile, is returning from a broken leg he suffered in April and will provide centerback depth when he returns.
No matter who is on the field, Porter is happy with his club’s attitude despite being in the midst of their first losing streak of the season.
“Every time we come to the pitch after some adversity, it further reenforces the team we have,” Porter said. “A lot of times if you have a broken team or things start to slip, it’s a terrible session after a loss because guys are negative. These guys aren’t happy, but they’re not negative.”
JAMAICA CALLUPS LEAVE TIMBERS WITH EVEN LESS DEPTH
Three players that the Timbers will definitely be without Saturday are all-star goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, co-leading scorer Ryan Johnson, and right back Alvas Powell, who were all called up for Jamaica’s next two World Cup qualifiers. The trio is expected to be back for Portland’s Sept. 14th match with Chivas USA.
Friday’s match with Panama will mark the debut match for Jamaica head coach Winfried Schafer.
“It’s a new coach, he’s trying to make a mark and he wants to get some results here,” Porter said. “I put myself in his shoes, I’d probably do the same thing. Obviously we are not happy about it but at the end of the day, it is what it is. Other teams are dealing with it too.”
Powell’s absence combined with injuries to Miller and Jewsbury leave a gaping hole at the right back position. The most likely candidates to start Saturday are Sal Zizzo, who hasn’t started this year for Portland but did score a goal on Friday, and Rodney Wallace, who could play left back with Michael Harrington shifting to the right.
TIMBERS SISTER CLUB WINS IT ALL
The Portland Thorns, who were the only NWSL club this year owned by a MLS franchise, were crowned league champions Saturday after knocking off the Western New York Flash 2-0 Saturday. Their title is the city’s second professional championship and was noted by Porter after practice Monday.
“I think it’s great for the city and great for women’s soccer in the country,” Porter said.
Porter also spoke of the the reception the team received following its victory. The club had hundreds of fans waiting at the airport for their return, were honored by the city council, and held a celebration at Jeld-Wen Field for supporters.
Despite sharing Jeld-Wen Field with a championship team, Porter doesn’t believe there is a bigger burden on the Timbers.
“There’s always pressure on me and on us. We like it that way,” Porter said. “Just think if we win a trophy. This place will blow up.”