CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – There was little time for the Portland Timbers to get acclimated to their new home away from home for the next 10 days. Barely an hour off the charter bus from Phoenix, the team took to a lighted field at Grande Sports World for a spirited training session that seemed to meet with everyone’s approval.
“When you put on a session where everything is ball work, then you get the maximum effort from the guys,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said following training. “Once again the tempo was magnificent. I told the guys I was very, very pleased with their honesty and work ethic.”
Played under substantially cooler, but comfortable conditions than the welcomed 70-degree weather that greeted the team as they arrived, Thursday night’s training gave the team the opportunity to jump right in and get started, including new arrival Sal Zizzo.
Zizzo was acquired by Portland the day before in a trade with Chivas USA and has enjoyed getting started with his new club.
“It was good to start training, meet the teammates and coaches, and get a feel for things,” Zizzo said.
With two-a-days currently scheduled for a bulk of the 10-day camp and four scrimmages on the horizon, the Casa Grande stint will see a measured increase in workload as the first-year MLS club embarks on Week 5 of its preseason regimen.
“We need to keep pushing, pushing and pushing, until we get to a max…and then see if we can get some more,” Spencer said after Thursday night’s training.
Spencer and his staff will conduct two training sessions Friday before the Timbers take part in a pair of scrimmages Saturday in Casa Grande, taking on the Houston Dynamo at 11 a.m. (MT) and the U.S. U-18s at 4 p.m. (MT).
Here one day, here another
While Zizzo was busy getting to know his new Portland teammates on his first day with the club, he certainly didn’t need any introductions to the Casa Grande complex, or the first people he crossed paths with at the hotel.
With his former team, Chivas USA, also training here, a group of his former teammates – including one-time USL Timbers forward Alan Gordon – were gathered in the lobby as the Timbers arrived, ultimately exchanging pleasantries with Zizzo and others in the Portland traveling party.
“It was a little bit déjà vu, but with a different uniform on,” said Zizzo, who departed Casa Grande on his journey to Portland less than 48 hours earlier.
Zizzo’s path over that time has taken him from Casa Grande, to Los Angeles, to Portland, and back again.
“From an outsider looking in you don’t really realize in professional sports how much it changes a person’s life when you move to a different city,” Zizzo said. “It’s a new team, a new culture, new everything…and it all happens in one day. But everything has been great so far.”
– A “Welcome Portland Timbers” sign adorned the outside of the lobby as the group arrived at the team hotel.
– Grande Sports World features a 58,000-square-foot performance facility and six soccer fields built and lighted to professional standards.