Tuesday night’s failure to advance into the Champions League Quarterfinals “needs” to be turned into a success as this team moves forward.
Be it a short-term or long-term success it just doesn’t matter.
How that gets achieved, is hard to picture at this time. With the wounds being so deep and the quick-turn (need-to-be-engaged) for FC Dallas this weekend, it’ll probably be more long-term than short.
In considering some things for the future…
Clearly the bench is not as good as expected and clearly the defense is not as good as expected.
What’s that translate too?
In my view it translates to a fundamental weakness in the organizational structure for how this team has positioned itself to operate this year.
That may read a bit harsh – it’s not intended to - I’m a military kind-of-guy and sometimes direct feedback is a good thing.
If conflict doesn’t exist then the passion isn’t there! If no passion - then what is the point in doing what you do?
Anyhow, back to some initial thoughts.
Some may offer the team needs a full time scout – reasonable, and to get that extra edge over competitors, perhaps it’s worthy to have some staff take on a more private scouting effort more directly.
The challenge might be the volume of teams & players to be scouted.
More importantly for me is an increase in (actual/precieved) in-depth statistical analysis. And this might also help leverage better scouting opportunities.
Bottom line here is that the statistical effort should be able to support a day to day, week to week, or month to month training program that can support fixing ‘oneoff’ tactical mistakes as well as longer term strategic weaknesses —> not just physical fitness level type performance issues.
It should be noted the team with the most in-depth statistical analyses in MLS is… Seattle; the next team using stats, the most, is probably Kansas City. Is there a correlation (relationship) between deeper statistical analysis and winning?
I think so – as does every team in the English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, on and on… and oddly enough, that part of a teams budget is not regulated by MLS!
Finally, there may be a need to slightly alter the overall attacking/defending strategy/tactics again, I say again in a subtle kind of way. (more to follow below)…
Statistically speaking, and counter to other thoughts offered elsewhere, the page was not turned for the better, after game eight. That is an illusion others are willing to promote even though it’s not true!
Up to, and including game eight, the Timbers had conceded 1.63 Goals per game while in the next twenty games (game nine, up to and including, game 28) the Timbers had conceded 1.75 Goals per game.
So even though the Goals For took a marked turn upward after game eight (1.13 to 2.00) the solution set the Timbers needed in order to better secure a Playoff position (better defending) didn’t turn upwards – it got worse
It’s only after game 28 that the Goals Against really began to turn downwards; going from 1.75 to .80 per game – far too late in my opinion.
Finally, the transition point for a ‘most likely scenario’ (where defensive tactics changed), probably happened after game nine, not game eight…
After game nine, opponents Passing Accuracy, “outside the Timbers Defending Final Third” never fell below 74.90%.
And only four times, after game nine, did the opponent not exceed 80% passing accuracy outside the Timbers Defending Final Third.
After game nine the statistics seem to points towards the Timbers ceding more opponent possession outside the Defending Final Third.
Passing statistics clearly indicate the opponent average passing accuracy outside the Defending Final Third was 75% for game nine and earlier – while that average was 82% for games nine to 28 and even higher (84%) for games 29 to 33.
In adding to that, statistically speaking, the average volume of opponents passes attempted outside the Defending Final Third was 318, per game, (1-9) versus 255 for games ten to 28 and 266 per game from 29 to 33.
Finally, opponent passes attempted in the Timbers Defending Final third went from 106, per game (1-9), to 119 per game (10-28), and finally, 134 per game (29-33).
What this means is that the overall defensive tactics for the Timbers changed twice this year (based upon what the statistics offer.
In the first part of the season the Timbers were more aggressive in trying to stop initial penetration, versus the second part where penetration was ceded a bit more, to the third part where penetration was conceded even more.
It’s only in the last stage of the season where the balance may have been found – but – let’s not forget that during that same stretch the Timbers played a very weak San Jose twice and couldn’t score against Real Salt Lake
Bottom line here:
Opponents were given more leeway to pass the ball about outside the Timbers Defending Final Third as the season progressed – it would appear the proper balance was achieved quite late… too late perhaps..
What is troubling is when Philadelphia did this very same thing after Curtin was brought on board in lieu of Hackworth (read here) their Goals Against dropped by ~.5 per game; a much quicker reduction in Goals Against and perhaps an indication that the defensive back-four for Philadelphia is better, player skill wise, than the back-four for Portland?
Finally, before moving on… is it any wonder the Timbers 1) probably aren’t going to make the Playoffs, and 2) got knocked out of the Champions League?
So I’d offer those are some of the statistics that the Timbers should recognize and move forward with… What’s next?
I’d envision at least one change in the First Team Coaching Staff.
I also see at least 4-8 new players entering the fold – with at least that many moving out or down to the USL Pro side.
I’d also expect to see a new Goal Keeper – it seems reasonable to me that Donovan Ricketts may be rewarded for great service and asked to move on or retire. He was good this year but not as stellar as he was the year before.
Don’t get me wrong – I still think Donovan Ricketts is a good keeper but I imagine Jake Gleeson may be done being an understudy. And if Jake isn’t promoted to first team keeper it’s likely he moves on.
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Like many I was exhausted after the game Friday night – so close… yet just not there.
Still a chance though – and I’ll be hanging by that thin thread for another week hoping that the Timbers advance…
That said, I’d like to get on the bandwagon about how fruitful the attack was Friday night – but I won’t.
Even though the chances were many it was a result we’ve seen all too often at Providence Park this year. And while some may disagree I think there were too many chances!
Is that possible?
A tough question to answer but on a good number of occasions I found myself tweeting that a bit more patience, an earlier pass, or a slow down of play in some areas might – just might – have seen a better result (a win).
So like it or not – I’m going to piss on the proverbial bonfire for a few minutes and peel the statistical onion back just a wee bit to drive home the point of patience and how patience in penetration and possession is Portland’s real gig and not the fast and furious activity we saw Friday night.
So here goes… Home games is the primary filter…
The scary part – the more passes attempted in the Attacking Final Third this year the less likely the Timbers are to win – that’s right…
After playing 17 games at home this year the higher the total volume of Final Third Passes offered the less likely the Timbers are to win…
The correlation (R2) is (-.47). It’s not a superb relationship but with it being a negative number near (-.50) it means more possession and penetration into the final third drives fewer points earned from a game.
Well this means there is greater potential for the Timbers to win (the objective of every game) if they show more patience in penetration, and possession leading to penetration.
Many will argue statistics can be made to prove many different things – true – but these statistics are unfiltered, and I’m not looking to have the statistics confirm my personal view – I’m looking at the statistics to see what they offer.
So in considering the excitement and stunning quick pace of last nights game it should not come as a surprise that the Timbers didn’t win…
And yes, even when looking at Shots Taken the relationship is still negative (more ended up with the Timbers getting less).
The best team indicator this year has been Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken – the closer that team percentage comes to 50% the better; last night they hit just 30%.
In the five games won at home three of those five games saw that percentage hit or exceed 50%; only twice (DC United and Chivas USA) did the Timbers win a game and not have greater 50% of their shots taken go on goal. But both those games saw the percentage higher than 30%.
Again, what this means is that more time, more space, and more patience suit the Timbers better; bottom line here is fast and furious is not a friend – it’s a foe.
In thinking about Friday night one player comes to mind who seemed a bit too hasty on the ball too often – Alvas Powell…
Granted Alvas is young, and it’s that youth and speed that is his strength; but along with that strength there is a weakness…
And on the right side it seemed that weakness showed more often than his strengths.
In reviewing my twitter thoughts, there were a number of times where I considered his passes as being either too early, too late, or simply not made…
This isn’t intended to pick on Alvas – with time and experience he will be better – but with this being a team game I think he needs to rely more on the others around him to help those individual penetrations lead to better opportunities.
However viewed, he played his heart out – as did everyone else on the team… even if they didn’t influence the game as much as you thought they should.
And yes, perhaps some of the blame on not scoring can be pointed at Nick Rimando, given his play last night…
But the general statistics supporting the view of more is less simply outweigh, in my opinion, the play of Rimando…
You may disagree but the Timbers did have seven shots blocked by defenders last night – not Rimando. And usually a high number of blocked shots indicates the shots are hurried and offered up where there is little time and little space.
And as much as some folks poo-poo statistics the correlation of shots blocked to points is also negative (R2 = -.41) – again reinforcing that a bit more patience may have suited things better…
However viewed the entertainment value was there – as has been the case with every game this year. …if you’re a neutral fan you probably saw this as being one of the best nil-nil games ever… for me? Not!
In Closing: A few positives….
The Timbers had another clean sheet – this shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle – they had to keep Real Salt Lake out of the net and they did.
A good confidence builder for next weekend against one of the better counter-attacking teams in MLS.
With this result the Timbers can remain hopeful that there’s still a chance.
Granted it’s unlikely Colorado defeat Vancouver – but there is always a chance for a draw. With that draw, and a Timbers win, Portland makes the Playoffs!
And if in the Playoffs, with a win at Dallas, that means the Timbers will have taken more points on the road than at home (25 to 24) – an even better confidence boost with both teams being on short rest…
All for now; Best, Chris
PS: In case you missed it – the photographs for this article were provided by Steven Lenhart. I’m pleased to say we will be working a bit more together in the near future. Thanks for these great pictures Steven!
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If Portland loses and Vancouver wins (a very likely scenario given they’re playing an Earthquakes team that probably doesn’t hit 1.0 on the Richter scale) it’s curtains for the Playoffs.
So what, in my opinion, is the most critical part of this game – in a nutshell Portland must score at least one goal and Real Salt Lake must not score any goals… a hill to climb for sure given the season long pedigree of the Timbers defense.
No rocket science here and Caleb, in as much admitted that yesterday in the press scrum, when he clearly ignored any discussion about the Timbers defense and focused specifically on the Timbers attack…
Rightly so given it’s one of the most potent attacks in Major League Soccer…
To reinforce that fact here’s the Possession with Purpose Strategic Attacking Index after Week 31:
Third best in MLS across all aspects of possession – from gaining possession, to passing and moving, through to penetration (into the final third), creating shots, putting them on goal and scoring goals… only New York and LA Galaxy have been more consistent.
In considering defending though; it’s not been about being unlucky – it’s the whole concept – from game one through to the last few games.
The most troubling aspect of the Timbers defending has been the volume of fouls in their own defending final third – poor positional play and being to anxious in attack; leading to a goals against only Chivas, Colorado, and Montreal would be proud of — and Caleb knows it.
More to follow in the off-season for sure. For now it’s a dead horse and the appropriate action when encountering a dead horse is to dismount and find another… not continue to ride it and hope the dead-ness goes away!
As far as the critical parts of this game tonight – win the battle in the midfield (as always) – stay focused, stay positionally (is that a word?) attuned and score goals… the more the better in my view!
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Rarely have I seen Caleb offer less emotion than he did in his quick post-game conference… (here).
Just a whole lot that went on with that game… too much in some cases, and it will be a hard slog to regain the confidence this team needs to carry on.
In as much as I’d like to walk through this game with you all I won’t… too many things went pear-shaped and most know what they are.
But Caleb has proven he’s a leader so first things first I’m sure he’ll dig right in and take the challenge (head on) on how this team prepares to right the ship for San Jose.
I hope so – I’d hate to see this season end without the Timbers making the playoffs!
In terms of getting things ready…
There’s gaps to be sure – but there’s opportunity as well.
Sometimes when a couple of good players go missing it provides a great impetus for others to step up and lead; for me that’s a positive to build from in preparation for San Jose.
What we already know is the defense needs to get better – we also know Diego Valeri has great vision – well it’s time for others like Darlington Nagbe to step up and show whether his playing with Valeri has increased his vision and leadership…
In terms of the attacking strategy of San Jose – like Toronto – they play direct and will pump in crosses – especially on set-pieces.
I personally think the aerial defending on crosses will need to be ‘superb’ this game – if that means starting Norberto Paparatto so be it!
With respect to the midfielders – all of them – you simply can’t watch the back four defend – they need to be part of the solution – not part of the problem…
Getting behind the ball against San Jose will be hard because they play longer passes – but it has to be done!
No excuses – it’s time for the Timbers to show real character and take three points when others might think it’s a bridge too far.
I don’t think it’s impossible; I think they can win but they aren’t going to win if they keep conceding goals!
All for me for now… if you wanted my thoughts about the game then the opinions I offered in my tweets haven’t changed…
For those new to the phrase ‘good idea’ – it’s not about assists – it’s about players having or showing vision that generates an opportunity for a teammate to score a goal. In other words ‘what doesn’t get measured‘ in soccer statistics – a pet peeve of mine’…
There’s nothing more pleasing to a Head Coach than a player who executes a ‘good idea’. And perhaps the most effective player last night was Michael Nanchoff – hence the two assists and rocket-like, inswinging, curler (he delivered from his inverted winger position) that shook the far post netting in the second half.
With the enthusiasm many will have from this game – and rightly so – I think it’s reasonable to offer some balance here about Alpha United.
It wasn’t clear to me the first time these two teams played (given the cricket pitch and not witnessing the game) just how poor the first touch and overall ball control was for Alpha United.
So I’d offer, that poor ball management, by Alpha United, had a whole lot to do with the greater volume of excess time and space the Timbers had to score those goals – what’s positive about this is that the Timbers DID score those goals – given that added time and space.
The other thing I noticed was the frequency of the United players taking minor injuries in the lower leg areas.
For me that signaled the pitch conditions were not normal for them. I have no idea if Alpha have ever played on field turf but it’s certainly not the same as playing on a cricket pitch. Just saying…
Anyhow, this isn’t to diminish the great result – never poo-poo a win; but the context merits the need to balance the difference between regular season MLS games and the run-up to a new round of CCL games…
Lest we forget, Olimpia did score two goals against the Timbers and that means the next game is not a push-over.
In between now and October 21st the Timbers really need to take some big points in order to help set the stage for a stronger side to take on Olimpia in Hondurus and finish the job!
Making the next round of the CCL (IS) critical… along with that comes prestige and a greater opportunity to convince better players to join this side next year.
I don’t offer that lightly.
(When) the Timbers qualify for that next round, in the Champions League, the pressure to perform will be even higher.
That means four things (at least – if not more) on the surface:
I’d almost offer that the time for waiting to see if junior squad players can play 90 minutes, regularly, in the MLS is about gone… in other words fringe players are on the fringe of non-existence…
The salary cap will go up – as will the level of competition given the talent continuously being added to MLS. Nevermind what influence comes as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Players Union…
A few questions in no particular order come to mind:
Plenty of questions as MLSNext begins –> More to follow…
With all that said I have what I think is some good news…
For the future – at least after the press field pass gets sorted out – Mr. Steven Lenhart (Nevets) will be helping to add value to my offerings as my official photographer.
Looking forward to that and hope it can be sorted by the time Real Salt Lake visit Portland on the 17th of October.
Nothing could be more further from the truth – but when a player hits a stunning volley, like Diego Valeri did, it’s bound to make the headlines.
And even my TV buddy, sitting beside me, said it was going to be real hard to offer up anything on telly other than the superb goals by Valeri and Fenando Adi.
I agree – to an extent…. BUT!
Let’s not forget the Timbers got a clean sheet here – and the single greatest impact on that effort rested with Diego Chara.
At the half – when the score was still just one-nil – anything could have happened.
And it did – but the ‘did’ part was two more superb goals by Adi.
Yet… the time and space that opened up for those two counter-attacking strikes doesn’t come about unless you have a solid back-four and a midfield that can quickly transition into attack.
Bottom line here is this was the single best game this team has played all season… hands down!
And given the standings – it couldn’t have come at a better time!
So with that said – put it in the past – that game is over and next up is Alpha United – and the Champions League.
All told there are five more games, for a possible 15 points, remaining in the Regular Season while there are two more games and a possible six points remaining in the Champions League.
Every point is critical – and it will take an 18 member team to put the Timbers through to the Playoffs AND the Champions League.
Defense is, and must remain, the most critical area to execute to perfection – with the attacking firepower this team has, goals will happen – what we don’t need to see is goals happening for the opponent!
The plot thickens and it’s simply superb to be a Timbers supporter at this stage of the season!
Unlike some others I thought this game was THE most important game this week – including the one coming up against Vancouver – or the earlier game against Colorado.
Here’s why – the revenue, prestige, visibility, and overall tenor of the organization making it to the next round of the Champions League is what any organization needs to do to increase its influence – it’s results like these, that work to help bring in better players too.
Of course, like all of us not privy to detailed video analysis, it’s hard to gauge what level of personnel may be needed to ensure a win while also not throwing out chances of winning against Colorado or Vancouver.
In that the phrase – in Caleb we trust – should be noteworthy and fully supported.
And like most everyone in this City, I trust Caleb and his judgment/understanding of the game and what’s needed to win.
The hesitation I have, and even as a Head Coach myself, is the ability of the players to perform on the day.
I don’t offer that lightly for this year – there have simply been too many mistakes, at the wrong time, where the Timbers have come out on the bad end of the stick.
And with that comes frustration; so be it.
Now for a few closing thoughts on the internals of the game…
I really can’t see Kalif Alhassan being long for this organization – he might add some value (given his current salary) but it took him at least 3 to 4 times to finally figure out that he wasn’t going to dribble-drive past that opposing fullback last night. And even after he (might?) have figured that out he still tried to do it in his own defending half.
You may have missed it but somewhere around the 30 minute mark he was switched from the right side to the left side. A significant move in my opinion and here’s why.
Darlington Nagbe – an intriguing game for Darlington last night. Here’s my take… He did a great job of just being there – in the game last night he really didn’t need to inject his direct influence – Rodney Wallace, Will Johnson, Gaston Fernandez, Jack Jewsbury, Michael Harrington, and Maxi Urruti were already doing that.
In my view it was a very good, non-game, for Darlington who came on and spelled Michael Nanchoff who also, in my opinion, played a very good game.
Reference the discussion mentioned above with Caleb Porter about Michael and playing inverted winger – that’s not an easy role to take on – but it’s an important role because it gives the Timbers greater flexibility moving forward. Well done Michael – on both sides of the ball.
Next up Vancouver…
The destiny of the Portland Timbers rests with themselves; the defense isn’t the best but the game still must be played.
One can hope for a clean sheet but, for me, I simply hope the Timbers score more goals than the Whitecaps…
I’d expect a high paced game with action on both sides of the pitch… it’s a home game for Portland and if ever a time was needed to behave and execute a game with precision and purpose (with the voice of the Timbers Army throughout the full 90+ minutes) it’s Saturday afternoon…
May the sun be forever in the eyes of Vancouver… blind them with brilliance!
You wouldn’t know the frustration that Caleb Porter felt because he didn’t voice any negativity in the post-match with the TV guys…
And that lack of usual zest and kicking the sand up is what’s got me intrigued on how the rest of the MLS Regular Season will take shape this year.
Will we see the same back four get run out the rest of the season hoping that they gel better and develop a winning chemistry?
I think so… the swinging door policy on who plays in the back is probably going to stop – at least for regular season games; barring injury.
So that brings me to this Tuesday evening at Providence Park – is this the time we see Norberto Paparatto again? Or Danny O’Rourke? What about Jack Jewsbury?
Jack’s playing time in the back-four has taken a significant hit these last few weeks…
And what about Michael Harrington?
Chances are Michael plays on Tuesday – if anything to save the legs of Jorge Villafana for the weekend match against Vancouver.
And you’ll notice I’ve said nothing about the attacking side of the pitch… there simply isn’t any need to do that!
In most everyone’s mind Diego Valeri has got to be one of the top players in all of MLS this year.
He simply wins games and helps his team win games… only guys like Keane or Henry or Donovan have usually been associated with tags like that – yet Diego probably makes a fraction of what those guys make.
Simply stated – what a superb player!!!
So a reasonable path forward???
Lost of philosophies out there.
But the toughest nut to crack is understanding that in this league, at this time, with the salary cap and all the other strings attached to the puppets, top quality players, in all 11 positions, simply isn’t going to happen.
And until the foreign player limitation rules are eliminated, and the salary cap is more a control mechanism to manage ‘fair play’ than an investment limiter, many of us will usually have some sort of frustration when we see outcomes that could/should be better but aren’t.
In the near future I’d expect the Champions League effort to be huge. if not almost primary.
Perhaps Caleb and his staff are playing (mums the word) on knowing the quality of Olimpia?
Hard to say, but if there ever was a time for another 3 or 4 goal outburst while also getting a clean sheet it’s this next Tuesday.
Even more so if the final run to the Playoff race doesn’t pan out.
Too many mistakes this year – be them real or imaginary.
An average of 3.69 fouls per game in the defending final third doesn’t help – it’s a “continuously clear” indicator that the midfielders and defenders are routinely out of position…
And again, after listening to Caleb in the post-match, I think he’s to the point where he’s done wasting his breath on the Captain Obvious.
And it’s not like it’s wait to next year – it isn’t… there remains a chance – a very good chance.
MLS destiny awaits next weekend – for now it’s all about the CCL…
Granted, they didn’t lose position in the League Table, but they didn’t gain breathing room either.
So what about yesterday?
With just 25 minutes in, the Timbers had at least 8 shots and the pressure applied in the San Jose final third was simply huge. Sadly, all that effort translated to just more statistics without purpose.
That said – the Timbers hit a record of sorts that not many will be aware of… in all of their possession Sunday they are the first team in Major League Soccer to break the 40% barrier when it comes to penetration resulting from possession.
All told, their penetration per possession on Sunday was 44.72%. In other words 44.72% of the time that Portland had the ball they penetrated the San Jose defending Final Third. the MLS league average hovers around 22-24%… and rarely, if ever, exceeds 35%.
Huge, simply huge, so when Caleb Porter indicates the Timbers could have scored 10 goals he’s exactly right.
Alas; there is a flip side to that and it comes down to words like, impatient, frenetic, too fast – too furious. Somehow I think a slightly slower frequency of penetration might have got them more time (and) more space… —> collectively; I think, too often on Sunday, that got one but not both.
In other words, for me, it’s all about balance… and considering they conceded 3 goals it, for the most part, really only mattered in that it got them 1 point. Good – but not Great!
The game itself…
This game was never about playing a team who behaved like Vancouver – San Jose plays in the air and they play direct; part of this includes looking to take advantage of second chance balls, deflections, and rebounds…
i could offer thoughts on what player selection might have worked better but it would be misplaced; I don’t view these guys daily and so I’ll just put it down to the players didn’t perform to expectation and leave it at that.
That said, there is a regular expectation that certain players, like the Captain, Will Johnson, will perform a clear cut leadership role that controls emotion and minimizes disruptive behavior.
So I’m not sure this article will be the impetus for a wake up call, but through the course of this season, and this game in particular, his willy-nilly runs and poor passing, at crucial times, along with emotional out-bursts, are better suited to untrained 12 year-old soccer players, than a professional who’s supposed to behave and lead in a controlled manner.
If you think my criticism is misplaced because I’ve not played the game professionally – bollocks – this view is no different from any trained professional in any walk of life – and as a military veteran, the price paid for lack of concentration and poor leadership has far greater risks than those garnered in playing a game of soccer.
Benjamin Persitz, Garret nelson and Dale Coleman favorited your Tweet:
#PORvSJ #RCTID poor behavior from Will Johnson – sorry – he’s the Captain and he needs to show leadership here not emotion
There are still two more games (six points available) against San Jose, so getting the player selection and defensive combination/rotation right still merits value.
Paparatto is an aerial player; perhaps he adds a different level of value in a game where an opponent is more likely to play aerial balls than ground-based attacking… i.e defending against Vancouver is not the same as defending against San Jose.
In considering the overall league and level of play in defending…
MLS, with it’s salary cap and limitations on foreign players and designtated players, means greater import goes to scouting and finding players who can raise the level of team passing accuracy while also having the legs and will to defend (get behind the ball). (AND) At the same time they don’t cost a fortune – get them young and mold them to what is needed, provided they have the nous and passing accuracy/first touch skills so often used in this league.
In case you didn’t know, the Timbers do not have a formal – paid scout – nor do they have a large investment in high level statistical analysis… if you can’t invest in the base of the organizational pyramid, to build a lasting foundation, I’m not sure how a team can really go into a season with an expectation that winning on a regular basis is going to happen… especially in a league where the quality of player versus the cost of the player is so fine-edged…
The Timbers have done a great job in bringing in Diego Valeri. He’s clearly (for me) one of the most influential players in this league – when he clicks the Timbers do great in attack.
Seven games remain – that target is still out there – and can be reached; defense first is what will get the Timbers to the Playoffs and through future rounds…
San Jose like to play more direct than Vancouver – all told their average percentage of successful passes in the opponents defending final third is 6% points lower than Vancouver.
What’s that translate to?
It usually means they are quicker to make an attempt at penetrating – increased quantity, in the MLS, usually means decreased quality.
So the attack for San Jose will be different – which then means the defending approach for Portland needs to be slightly different.
Not different in terms of players but different in what areas will need to be closed down quicker in order to prevent successful penetration and shot generation.
As such the right midfielder/forward and right central midfielder will need to be better engaged/quicker in getting near the ball for second chance rebounds and deflections when the game flow works left to right.
And just the opposite for when the game flow works right to left.
From an attacking standpoint – San Jose is no slouch in defending – everybody has trouble defending LA Galaxy but in looking at most games this year San Jose are one of the better teams in defending.
Here’s a recent analysis on San Jose through Week 22 – as you can see they are pretty far up the Index in team defending.
As for now here’s how they stack up in the overall Defending PWP Index compared to Portland:
All said and done DEFENSE must remain the priority for the Timbers – working from the back – forwards last week saw Vancouver cede time and space due to impatience in trying to “over-create”.
Portland can’t afford to fall into the trap that Vancouver did – we all know Chris Wondolowski is wicked good on second chance balls and counter-attacking – with longer balls is likely.
Here’s hoping Portland can continue to get three points and march on-wards to the playoffs.