Timbers focus on game, not weather conditions
Hot temperatures greet players in Houston, K.C.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
The temperature will be in the mid-90s, and feel about 10 degrees hotter, when the Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo kick off Sunday’s Major League Soccer match.
It doesn’t figure to be a whole lot different on Wednesday when the Timbers visit Sporting Kansas City. But, before the squad departed for this super-sweaty swing, the Timbers insisted the conditions weren’t intimidating.
“I love the heat, so I’m actually really looking forward to it,” defender Mike Chabala said.
Chabala knows the Houston heat well. He was traded to Portland last month after six seasons with the Dynamo.
Jamaican Lovel Palmer, who also came to the Timbers from Houston in the July trade, said he too is fine with the heat.
“It’s not a big problem for me. I’m smart. I pace myself. I don’t go chasing the game,” Palmer said. “I know when to go and when not to go. I think that’s going to be the biggest part of our game, organizing the back, organizing the team. Play compact for 90 minutes and be smart.”
Even the smart players will lose between 5 and 10 pounds over the 90 minutes, so pregame hydration is critical. Palmer and Chabala said one thing they can do to help their teammates handle the heat is to continually remind them to pace themselves.
“I think it’s going to be very important that we’re disciplined as far as when were pressing (forward),” Chabala said. “The guys aren’t going to be used to it, so it’s imperative that Lovel and I both talk to the forwards, pull them back at times instead of going and trying to chase the game.”
Chabala said the heat is a significant advantage for the home team, just as altitude is for teams such as the Colorado Rapids.
“If you look over the history of the club, during the summertime is when the (Dynamo) really take advantage of teams at home,” Chabala said. “Even good clubs come in there, and you’d watch them just kind of bunker in and sit back.”
The last time the Timbers played in the Texas heat, they didn’t so much sit back as keel over. The result was perhaps their worst effort of this season in a 4-0 loss to FC Dallas. The conditions might have defeated the Timbers before Dallas did.
“The effort in general in Dallas wasn’t good enough, whether (or not) you want to blame it on the heat,” captain Jack Jewsbury said. “At the end of the day, the temperature is going to be the same for both groups of guys, and our approach to the game has just got to be better.”
How does a team approach a game when heat is going to compound the typical mental and physical challenges of a match?
“Maybe it’s us being a little bit smarter about managing the game during certain times in the heat,” Jewsbury said, explaining that it’s important for players to pace themselves and not gamble. “That definitely plays a role, and maybe we didn’t do that so well in Dallas.”
Less comfortable than even the hot conditions in Houston and Kansas City might be the response from coach John Spencer if his Portland squad turns the sultry conditions into an excuse for poor play. Consistent with his message to the media this season, Spencer this week said factors such as weather and fields should not distract professionals from doing their jobs.
“I think it comes down to if players want to play and move and work hard, and show the real desire levels to go and win a game which is going to be a difficult game to win,” Spencer said.