Toronto FC held a brief training session ahead of Saturday’s clash versus the Portland Timbers at BMO Field.
The Reds prepare for their toughest test under new head coach Greg Vanney, who registered his first win last week against Chivas.
Portland’s offensive threat
Portland’s dynamic offense has been the subject of much conversation throughout the week. Diego Valeri is the star, but the Timbers boast a formidable group of attacking players, including Fanendo Adi and Darlington Nagbe, that can turn the game on a dime through a moment of brilliance.
“They’re a very good attacking team,” Vanney said following training on Friday. “I think they have a lot of options in attack. Adi is a big strong guy who can pin back centre-backs, he can also look to run in behind you.”
Vanney and his coaching staff spent time this week devising a plan to stop Valeri, the Timbers’ talisman.
“They key really is Valeri and knowing where he is at all times,” he said.
“We need to know where he is, we need to be communicating between our central midfielders and our centre-backs on where he is located at all times.”
Containing the Argentine star will not be a job left to one player.
“He’s clever,” Vanney continued. “If you match up with him one on one he’ll go drift to the outside, and he and Nagbe will switch and then you don’t really want to send your marking guy to the outside to deal with him.”
“He has tendencies and we know what the tendencies are.”
Though Vanney & Co. are rightfully concerned by the threat poised by Valeri and his henchmen, ultimately this game is on TFC’s feet.
“We need to attack them and force them to have to defend,” Vanney said. “They’re dangerous in attack, [but] they’ve given up a lot of goals this year.”
Toronto FC is almost free of the injury hex that has plagued this team for most of the season. Collen Warner and Jermain Defoe are the only two regulars unavailable for Saturday’s clash.
“Collen is very,very close, but not likely for tomorrow,” said Vanney. “Other than that our options are pretty open.”
Defoe continues to work his way back into game shape. Vanney gave an update on his progress.
“He’s on a final sort of progression,” said the Reds’ boss. “He’s been doing day-on, day-off in terms of work and recovery. His work days have been pretty heavy in terms of change of direction, sprinting, starting to do real soccer movements and starting to get touches on the ball.”
Defoe’s return to full training is on the horizon if all continues to go well.
“Our intention is that he’ll be back into full training by next week.”
Staying at hotel
TFC will be living the tourist life ahead of Saturday’s game. An early start time combined with traffic issues in the city led a group of the team’s players to suggest staying in a hotel on Friday night. The idea became a group consensus.
“It keeps guys from having to figure out what they’re going to do at 9 AM and then get to the stadium,” Vanney said. “It was something the guys were in favour of.”
The 40-year-old spent three years as a player in France with Bastia, and says this isn’t exactly a new idea.
“When I played overseas we always, whether it was a home match, we went into a hotel the night before. It’s not uncommon.”
Vanney on Porter
Caleb Porter was Portland’s boy wonder last season, leading the Timbers to Western Conference glory in his first season in charge of the club.
After a rocky start to his sophomore campaign, Porter has righted the ship in the Pacific Northwest. Vanney is familiar with the reigning MLS coach of the year.
“I’ve crossed paths with him through combines and various ‘soccer things.’”
“It’s a small world at the end of the day,” Vanney continued. “I’ve had conversations with him when he took the job at Portland back at the beginning of last year and what his plan was and how he attacked his first year.”
Vanney is a fan of Porter’s style.
“He’s a thoughtful guy. He has a clear vision for how he wants his team to play. I think he’s done a great job there. They believe they can win and that they should make the playoffs.”
A number of Toronto FC academy players returned from Canada's National Team Event in Costa Rica.
U15s in Costa Rica for National Team Event (Sept 17 – 26): Klaidi Cela, Brogan Engbers, Shaan Hundal, Andron Kagremanyan, Glenn Muenkat, Zac Zitoli, Joseph Vitulli, Dante Campbell