PORTLAND — One week into preparations for the Portland Timbers 2013 season, the Caleb Porter project is on schedule.
Maybe even a bit ahead of schedule.
"I'm very happy," the first-year coach said after Saturday's training session at Jeld-Wen Field.
Porter described the progress, particularly in terms of fitness, as better than he anticipated.
"The fitness is tremendous, so that's nice. We don't have to do a ton of fitness without the ball," Porter said.
The Timbers now head to Tucson, Ariz., for 12 days of training, that will include four preseason games — beginning with a 10 a.m. Tuesday match with the Colorado Rapids. The first chance for Timbers fans to see the team in action will come on Feb. 17, when the Timbers face San Jose in a preseason match at Jeld-Wen Field.
Even less than a week into training camp, the Timbers are eager to play a game.
"It'll be a true test of where we're at and whose fitting with who. There's a lot of new guys on the team so the games are obviously important," said defender Ryan Miller, one of the new guys.
Winning, while nice, isn't the primary goal in Arizona according to Porter.
The coach said his plan is to get a look at different players, and formations. He said players will be limited to playing 45 minutes at first and gradually build until they are fit to play a full 90 minute game.
Saturday's session was the first of the week's four practices to emphasize defending.
"It was good to see them roll up their sleeves a bit today and fight and tackle a little bit," Porter said. "We had focused mostly on the attack the first three days and wanted to get to the other side of the ball today and hammer home some things. I was pleased with their work rate."
That commitment was one of the traits Porter was looking for as he and general manager Gavin Wilkinson put together the roster. So far, so good, the coach said."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," Porter said.
• Defender Hanyer Mosquera (knee) is getting better, according to Porter, but did spent most of Saturday's session riding a stationary bike.
• Brent Richards "took a knock" during training and Porter did not know that status of the Camas native.