LOGJAM in the Portland Timbers midfield.

Here’s my first blog on the LOGJAM Portland has with midfielders… plenty of thoughts out there I’m sure. Not everything I see, feel or think is down here today – more time for that as the season progresses.

For now – the chase 🙂

Zizzo and Alexander – I would offer that these two guys provide what I would call are traditional “penetrating skills”; this is not to say they don’t do other things – but when working to what I offer are their strengths this is how I would classify them. Another way to say this is that as they dribble and run with the ball in a ‘direct way’ they take advantage of space that in turn creates space for others. Some may have a differing view but skills like these can be great assets to any system of play on 1) a wide pitch and 2) as a late game substitution when the other team starts to get tired. I am not sure I have ever seen a healthy Zizzo but according to the Timbers site he is 100% healthy now. Alexander leads the team in assists but that could be deceiving since Alhassan has been injured quite a bit.

Chara, Palmer and Jewsbury (yes Capt Jack) – I would offer that these three guys provide what I would call are traditional “central midfield holder skills”; So in working from my initial thoughts skills like those are usually needed by only one of the usual four midfielders – maybe two – but usually one. I kind of liken this role as the ‘always gets stuck in aggressively role’ as well as providing good vision when attacking but not over-committing to an attack. Chara – in my opinion, is top flight in that department – he will tackle anyone anywhere if he senses an opportunity to get the ball or slow play down (buy time for other midfielders). Palmer has somewhat the same skills but not quite as aggresive and he doens’t have the same cheshire cat grin that Chara has. Perhaps the TImbers Army creates a separate song for Diego Chara that uses the “felix the cat” background tune? LOL With respect and I mean respectfully as well, Capt Jack has lost a step or perhaps two in the last couple of years – moving him to right back keeps his skills and thinking capacity on the pitch but also gives Spencer many other different and more ‘pace’ options with the midfield. I supported that move to right back and offered that as an option to one or two folks last year.

Wallace – I would offer that he tries to provide what might be considered a traditional ‘winger’ role who has had significant playing time but unlike Alhassan just does not have the foot skills and vision to go with what I consider to be a very athletic frame. As he matures and increases his vision I believe he can bring more to the pitch than he does now. He also seems to work well in overlapping with Smith or Chabala – but the flip side on that is he needs to get back and fill the right back role if we lose the ball and Smith or Chabala are too far forward.

Songo’o – still a bit of a mystery to me – he has flashes of brilliance, can be steady, but also gives away the ball too easy sometimes. HE is working hard on his crosses and his flow of play down the wing – more time is needed and he should get better as he let’s the game come to him instead of the other way around. When I saw him play for the first time I saw ‘quality’ play – but not so sure right now. Need to wait and see a bit more before attempting to provide additional thoughts; perhaps others have some thoughts they’d like to share?

Nagbe and Alhassan – these two guys are different types of players but both very skilled players – I have them paired together not because they play similar roles but because they bring so much to the pitch… I think both will be in Europe when their contracts expire.

Mwanga – aye – I have Mwanga here – rumor has it the Timbers might bring in another striker – someone posted something about Miller – a Scottish striker – if that is true and if all the other pundits are accurate that Mwanga has similar skills to what Alhassan and Nagbe provide then I can easily see him playing a ‘drop back’ role in the front midfield.

So what all does this mean? No matter how you slice it there are plenty of options depending upon the type of system being run… I don’t think this LOGJAM is a bad thing – it brings competition to the internal squad for playing time and gives John Spencer plenty of options given the size of the pitch or the system(s) he wants to run… when all these guys are healthy and firing on all cylinders we should feel pretty good with what we have.

Another view might be with this logjam and some healthy central defenders John Spencer has more options that might include running a 3-5-2 as opposed to a traditional 4-4-2 that kind of ‘floats’ into a 3-5-2 when we push the ball down the left or right wing.

Course that means there needs to be a lot more thinking going on – on the pitch; concentration is critical. All you have to do is look at why England had an OG against Sweden yesterday; not only was their “center-forward/striker” making a bone-head tackle just outside his own 18 yard box during a normal run of play that caused a free kick but the right back defender played the Swedish player on-side after the free kick because he was ‘ball-watching’ – that bone-head play led to the ball being deflected off Johnson and into the back of the net.

England did win the game on a stunning goal but can you imagine the English press hammering Hodgson and his squad if they had lost to Sweden!

Bottom Line – get the ball in the back of the net – it doesn’t matter how pretty it got there!

Chris Gluck

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. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.

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