AS THE TIMBERS embarked on the defense of their MLS title last Sunday, defeating Columbus 2--1, they had a 26-man roster—and a 20-member health-and-wellness team that includes massage therapists, dentists, chiropractors, yoga instructors, nutritionists, chefs and acupuncturists.
Nik Wald, the Timbers' director of sports medicine, and Nick Milonas, director of sports science and a performance specialist at Exos, are key parts of the club's data-driven approach to keeping players on the field. The system is aimed at finding a balance between conditioning and over-training. Portland coach Caleb Porter says Milonas helps him "confirm and correct" players' weekly needs and develop more precise practices.
"Our goal from a physical standpoint is to keep everyone available first and foremost," Milonas says. "If we can give Caleb and his coaches the ability to utilize the depth of the roster, that hopefully puts us in a good position during the season."
Porter and Milonas meet daily to discuss each player's data points, which are determined through technology such as Omegawave (it measures cardiac, metabolic and central nervous system readiness, including the effects of sleep and stress), Adidas miCoach (GPS-monitoring for distance, sprint counts and acceleration) and vitamin and mineral deficiency tests. Using these tools, with the help of a data analyst on staff, Milonas is able to bring together all the pieces "to implement and prescribe a plan" for Porter.
"What a winger needs and what a central defender needs is very different, so that is why we measure players in their position," Porter says. "Over time we get an understanding of each player and how they respond in certain activities, and now, after two years of data, we have compiled a drill library."
The database houses hundreds of Porter's tactical drills, but instead of simply showing diagrams or instructions, the system provides details on how the drills affect each player. "This allows us to really be specific and, in essence, as perfect as we can be to make sure the players are fit but also to make sure they remain healthy," Porter says. "If they remain healthy, you have the best chance to win."
Presented by edge
Timbers trainer Nik Wald offers tips on a few moves that are good for everyone
[This article consists of 3 illustrations. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Without shoes, roll the arch of the foot back and forth over a tennis or golf ball. Use different angles and pay extra attention to sore spots.
Step forward with right leg, place your hands on either side of your front foot and push your hips toward the sky. Repeat on the opposite side.
Put a resistance band above the knees and squat slightly, with feet shoulder-width apart. Move laterally in small steps, keeping your chest up, back flat and knees over toes.
For more athlete training profiles and tips, go to SI.com/edge
ALEX GALLARDO/AP (NAGBE)
Another Run Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe is looking to repeat.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARTIN LAKSMAN