by Michael Orr
John Spencer spoke to the local media for nearly fourteen minutes after training today, explaining the loss in Montreal and discussing various injuries and personnel decisions.
The first two minutes were devoted to Troy Perkins’ lacerated nose and Sanna Nyassi’s foul that caused it.
“Troy is lucky he’s not in for plastic surgery today. He’s got a gash from one nostril right around to the other side.
I’ve seen it a number of times on slow motion…that’s a stonewall red card for me…I think he was lucky not to have lost an eye. I was very disappointed that wasn’t a red card,” Spencer said.
The Timbers’ manager felt the 62nd minute foul was one of three game-changing decisions that went against his team, though he couldn’t help but refer back to Nyassi’s foul even beyond the opening conversation. He also referred, not for the first time, to Kalif Alhassan’s red card in New York last season as a comparison of red card-worthy decisions.
Justin Mapp’s early foul on Steve Purdy was another decision Spencer felt aggrieved by, even three days later. Purdy did not train today and will miss Saturday’s game against Columbus Crew as he will not have enough time to complete the league’s concussion protocol.
The third decision was Steven Smith’s handball in the box in the 76th minute, though Spencer did admit he did not disagree with the call:
“I’m a big believer that if the ball hits your hand in the box, unless your hand is tucked, it’s a penalty kick. I don’t think it was deliberate, though.”
Moving on to other matters, such as the Timbers’ lack of attacking chances, Spencer repeated a common refrain:
“Not one person to blame. We all work together as a team and as a staff. I think we’ve all got to take responsibility for it.”
He did not blame the suspect Olympic Stadium turf however, saying it was poor but given that both teams had to play on it, it is not an excuse.
Eric Alexander, the midfielder who started several games this season but has seen just six minutes over the past two games, was a topic of questioning as well. Many fans have wondered why the 24-year old has been relegated to the bench.
Spencer spoke to that, saying,
“I think Eric is in a situation like a lot of us where he’s been given an opportunity to play and is not playing to the best of his ability…He needs to realize that when you get an opportunity to play, you need to take it with both hands.” Though he did reiterate that the club think very highly of Alexander and fend off trade requests for him “once a week.”
According to Timbers officials, Steven Smith is back in the United Kingdom trying to secure the P-1 visa that would allow him to work and live in the United States.
Only the circumstance of Portland’s last game being played in Canada allowed Smith to slip through a loophole, to use Spencer’s word.
Looking forward, Spencer said:
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed. We’ve always done a good job in the past with visas. The government have worked well doing that for us. I think he had a good debut this weekend and I think we’ll see more from him as he adapts to the American game. I think he’ll be a good player for us.”
Finally, Spencer tackled the subject of using Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe as wide midfielders instead of in their preferred central and even forward positions.
“Darlington’s played there before but he wants to play through the middle. But when we’ve got injuries and we don’t have Sal [Zizzo] and we don’t have Kalif [Alhassan] we’re trying to fit square pegs into round holes at the moment.”
With Purdy out of the line-up, Spencer used the exact same phrase in reference to the possibility of Freddie Braun starting at right back on Saturday against Columbus. He did not say for sure that it would be the case, nor did he rule it out.
Though fourteen minutes was quite a bit longer than usual, Spencer could have summed up his entire chat with the press with a sentence he said mid-way through: ‘I need to coach better, the players need to play better.’
Note – Regarding James Marcelin’s dismissal from the team last week, Spencer would not expand too much on what was published in the club’s press release except to clarify that the team did try to make a trade before waiving the Haitian international midfielder: “We tried everything and there was no comeback.”