well, happy sunday and happy beginning to the last week of transfer january. there is very little going on so far, but i am sure that will change once the team determines they can make a few more changes before february 1. one thing we have come to expect this off-season is change. i am not complaining about that--the changes were all necessary and prudent.
obviously, we all have it in our understanding that franck songo'o will no longer be with the club. as disappointing as that may be it has not been made official. and one thing that should be considered is the timbers still hold his rights and still have him on a semi-guaranteed contract. knowing our management and their desire to recoup something, anything, for a player, i would not be surprised to see a trade of some form or other take place. currently, songo'o is on trial with the houston dynamo, linking up with several other ex-timbers. i am not going to speculate about houston's and kinnear's plan, but the accumulation of ex-timbers, circa 2012, is intriguiging, if not concerning (that is: if i cared what houston did). hopefully, songo'o can find his feet there and draw enough interest from the dynamo. moreover, and far more important to our concerns, is the hope that both the timbers and the player can find an equitable end to the drama.
while the personnel changes have slowed to a halt in the last few days, one thing that is changing is the culture of the team. that is, the team is being instructed of the concept of "team." not that last year, or the year before, saw players who did not understand the concept of team but there were instances and specific players who did not carry their entire share within that concept. i speak specifically of the front three, who were more inclined to hover around the 18 yard box than to track back and assist in the area of the game so greatly deficient within the timbers overall play--defending. one could guarantee that if tracking back was to be performed the two players recently uninvited to return to the club would be elsewhere. sure, kris boyd was brought in to do one thing--score goals--but in modern football, and mls in particular, such a player is a luxury that cannot be carried by a club. personally, i liked boyd but i also knew he was not the player to take the timbers into the next phase of mls.
discussing the new play, the new system, and the new formations, yesterday, caleb porter was quick to discuss first his impressions of how the players were buying into those systems and new requirements of play:
We did a defending session today. It was a hard session and they worked their asses off the entire time. Nobody is cutting corners. I like this group, it is an honest group. We hoped it would be that way. That was the basis of a lot of our decisions in the off-season. We wanted a group that was going to work and be honest and embody the spirit of the Timbers Army and the Portland people, but also play good soccer.
not that we supporters need to have described to us the qualities and ethics of blue-collar lifestyle, but that is what porter has done. as pleasing as possession football is to the eyeballs, the true beauty of it is based on work--a combination of individual graft and team graft. ultimately, for the system to be successful, every player must buy into the ethics and assist his fellow teammates without assuming or expecting the job will get done by someone else.
the changes occurring also include developing options of play and formations. porter is in the initial stages of sussing out the type of play that best suits the players he has acquired, but having options to change the approach and tactics in the later stages of a game can only be imparted early within the pre-season. so, reading and listening to his soundbites, it is apparent that porter is developing not only plan b but also the intuition within the players of when and how the change to plan b occurs:
Yeah, we want to have a better picture of where we are at in terms of the system. We are going to play a couple of different ways and we want to figure out which way works better, but we also want to have a couple of options that we can go into depending on the game or what's happening in the game. I think it is good to be adjustable.
some players have shown more to porter than others. diego valeri is certainly one player porter praises regularly and highly:
He’s a guy who you won’t see his complete quality until you throw him in a match, and yet you see some nice little touches. Today, even just in the pattern play, you can see the composure, the final passes, the finishes, even the movement, the timing, those little things you can’t teach. He’s going to bring a different sophistication to this group
there will always be standout players, but so long as the team is buying into the system those standout players only improve the team rather than carry the team (a concept lost on the management the past 2 years). this is important to remember: valeri is not here to carry the timbers but rather to improve the timbers and improve the players around him. he is just another part of the team--the concept porter is so intent on imparting upon the players, the media, and the supporters.
There is going to be an identity, a clear identity. There will be variation from game to game and we will do what we need to do to win, but there will be a clear identity in this club and every day in training I am trying to transform the club into that identity.
we here at the axe have been trying to do our part in discussing the changes happening in order to prepare our readership as well as inform them of what to expect. i would like to remind you, or direct you back to an article written by our friend and contributor, john nyen. i think it is important to re-read this so that you get a player's understanding of porter's system and the type of play we can expect to see come march 3, 2013.
these are exciting changes, kids.
enjoy your sunday.