Tshuma, Fernandez Making Good Early Impressions

The newcomers already making an impact as the Timbers preseason begins
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, February 07, 2014

Wikimedia Commons

It has that preseason feel so far for the Portland Timbers, and that’s really not a bad thing.

From the first training sessions at JELD-WEN Field to the current camp in Tucson, Ariz., it is an opportunity for the veterans on the club to shake off the rust and start to get back into game shape.

It’s also a chance to look at the newcomers while getting those coming off of injury a little healthier. And the 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday in the preseason opener in Tucson had a preseason feel, but at the same time allowed a few to show off their skills and make a case for getting a closer look.

If it was a regular season game, maybe there would have been more aggressiveness after Sal Zizzo scored in the first half and after SKC went down to 10 players following Aurelien Collin’s second yellow card. But the goal came in the 2nd half, from a player who has shown very well so far.

Schillo Tshuma scored that goal off of a nice pass from Aaron Long. Tshuma, Portland’s first round pick in this year’s SuperDraft, has been impressive from the first day of camp. His effort against SKC helped him earn a spot in the first team on Wednesday against Houston, and in the final 30 minutes of that match, he showed that he could hang with many of the main starters. How he looks in the final 2 matches in Tucson may help determine how much of a further look he’ll get as the opener against Philadelphia gets closer.

Another who has been impressive has been Gastón Fernández. The Argentine newcomer has shown some of the skills that attracted the Timbers staff to him. He helped set up the 2 goals against Houston, first with a give-and-go with Maximiliano Urruti that led to a perfect pass that set up Will Johnson’s goal, then another pinpoint pass that sprung Urruti and put him in position for his goal. He has seemed to get more comfortable as he’s played more with the 1st team, and it’s easy to imagine what a good partnership he and Diego Valeri could be.

Urruti also looked more confident in the Houston match. His movement during the 30-plus minutes he played was fluid, and he was working very well with Fernández and Johnson. Along with the goal, he had a shot hit off of the post after snagging a loose ball in the box, and he knew he probably should have scored on it.

The Wednesday match with Houston was set up differently than a normal match, as it was played over a trio of 30-minute periods instead of the usual 45-minute halves. That allowed Caleb Porter to give many of the players trying make the team, or earn a shot to play in Sacramento on a consistent basis, a good chance to improve their standing.

Of course, this is still a work in progress. There’s still no Valeri or Steve Zakuani, though they have started picking up their workouts in the past couple of days. Michael Harrington has returned from his stint training with the US Men’s National Team, and played that last 30 minutes with the first team on Wednesday. Donovan Ricketts also saw his first preseason action in those 30 minutes after Andrew Weber played the first 60 minutes of the Houston match.

There’s still plenty of work to be done in Tucson before the Timbers head back to Portland next week. Saturday’s match with Seattle will be a good chance to see how some players are in a more pressurized environment (because no match with the Sounders can really be called a “friendly”). Then comes one last match against the new club in the NASL, the Indy Eleven, and that could be a final chance for some to show they can hang with the Timbers or can improve with time in Sacramento.

By the time the Timbers start their preseason tourney, the Rose City Invitational, in 2 weeks, many of those decisions will be made. The time to impress is now.

NEXT UP: February 8 – Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, North Stadium, Kino Sports Complex, Tucson, Ariz. 8 p.m. EST, MLSSoccer.com.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
RAY'S SPONSORS