Portland Timbers

Timbers win at home. Bout bloody time!

A game of two halves against Colorado?  Perhaps so…

But in considering a match lasts a full 90 + minutes was it really two different halves or did a purposeful first half strategy, of fast and furious activity, play a key role in a (pre-prepared) second half strategy on a more patient approach to possession with purpose in penetration?

I’m not sure I can muster the half-time statistics to support either view but lets consider for a moment just how different the two halves were; in both what the eye probably saw and what Caleb Porter indicated to a national TV audience after the game.

To be specific Caleb offered after the game that his halftime talk centered on regaining composure and not offering up such a frantic and fast paced attack in the second half.

While what Caleb offered is true is it really only half-true?

In other words was they are prepared “intent” in the first half to work extra hard in order to burn the opponents energy, as much as possible, knowing that with a highly competent bench Caleb could insert fresh, talented (top quality) players (late on) in order to take advantage of those tired legs?

Having witnessed and watched Caleb work his efforts these last two years it wouldn’t surprise me.

And even if it wasn’t intended the ‘threat’ of considering that tactical approach makes this team even harder to to play against as the defense gets better.

However viewed the results ended up seeing the Timbers score two superb goals in the run of play!

And those two goals came within the space of five minutes; in and around the classic time that some sports scientists reckon the tired leg syndrome kicks in… the 65-75 minute mark of a game.

So in review, and their history of scoring goals late in the game, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me on how this game finished and how the tenor of the game took an apparent, major shift, at the 45 minute mark…

To be honest though, I’m not an expert in sports science but I will make it a point to track the Timbers PWP performance indicators by each half now…. just to make sure I have the data to compare when a game like this takes shape again.

With that said was there anything different, team performance wise, in how they performed in victory versus how how they’ve performed when not winning?

In short; this game was only the third game where Portland exceeded the 500 pass attempts marker; when exceeding 500 passes the team has taken 5 out of 9 possible points.

For only the fourth time the Timbers exceeded 60% of the possession in a game; this one ended up at 61.89% possession.

In their other three games, exceeding 60% possession, the Timbers have taken 2 points – the game against Chicago with the PK against, the game against FC Dallas and the 2nd of two back-to-back games against Sporting KC.

Penetration:

All told the Timbers level of penetration (23.75% of their overall possession) matched that of the game they won against DC United.

What’s interesting is that the further away from 24% (going up) – the less likely the Timbers are in winning – what that means is there needs to be a level of possession, without penetration, for the Timbers to maximize opportunities in winning.

That may go against the grain for many – but that level of possession that is not penetration is possession that drives towards the intent to possess and control (think defense first)…

Shots Taken versus Penetration:

To date they really hasn’t been a pattern in this area for either wins, draws, or losses – the defensive pattern I spoke to in the pre-match article probably has more relevance than this attacking pattern of penetration.

Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken:

Three times this year the Timbers have seen at least 40% of their shots taken end up as shots on goal; one of those was a draw against LA Galaxy and the other was that loss against Vancouver – (don’t forget the two early PK’s called against Portland).

For this game the Timbers put a full 50% of their shots taken on goal – pretty accurate and a good indicator that space was being created and patience was being leveraged to generate quality shots; it’s always a good indicator when the team can generate a good margin of shots taken on goal.

In closing…

The last three games have been the best attacking games for Portland this year – all three games saw their Attacking PWP Index exceeding 2.6372.

That means the combined percentages of possession, passing accuracy, penetration, creation and generation of goal scoring opportunities have been way above average compared to other teams in MLS.

The downside, in the past, has been the defending side of the pitch…

We all saw the game; the greatest danger to the Timbers was when Deshorn Brown was on the pitch; when he got injured the attack for Colorado changed.  No pity here… unlucky for Colorado – good for Portland!

Liam Ridgewell will need more playing time on field turf to better anticipate the bounce and the need to slightly tweak how he delivers a long (switching pass) out of the back.

Otherwise he looked good in his first game and he clearly took physical and verbal command of the back-four in the first couple of minutes – you would expect that command and control to be present with every center-back…

Perhaps I’ve missed it in the past but the last time I recall seeing a center-back display that phyiscal and verbal commanding presence was the last time I saw Mikael Silvestre play in Portland

.Best, Chris

Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012 and occasionally write for Soccer Yanks. A recent highlight in my short time as an MLS Analyst was being invited to present my Possession with Purpose MLS Soccer Analysis at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. With the increased visibility of my work I have created a new Domain at www.possessionwithpurpose.com. My background in soccer started in the United Kingdom, where, as an American, I was the General Manager and President of an English Youth Football Club just outside of Thetford, England. (Barnham Bulldogs FC). I also served as a head coach for U-11/12's, and obtained my English FA Youth License Certification through Norwich City FC. Upon returning to the U.S., I was an Assistant Coach and eventually a Head Coach within the Ajax Youth Football Club organization, Kent Washington. I have recently started a small business ...Possession with Purpose (Soccer Analysis & consulting) and I retain COPYRIGHT on The Possession With Purpose ideas and research published on these sites.

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