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Match Analysis – Timbers (nil) – Rapids (3)

I’ve taken a bit more time to consider the notes I jotted down as I watched this game… not sure whether or not I will pull out and write down all the critical things I saw that led to this loss but I will do my best.

In considering the things I offered in my WTWF for this game here is what I submit for the sharks to feed on that may lead to additional clarifications or examples for those who have picked out other things.

One-v-One Tackling: – Timbers lost nearly every one-v-one battle in the midfield and lacked the aggression to create “potential” one-v-one ball possession battles that would lead to Timbers attacks. I think I remember a few tackles where we gained possession otherwise the bottom line for me was the Rapids dominated the midfield. For those that like numbers my count was Rapids won this war by a difference of 13.

In considering “potential” one-v-one’ battles => here is a glaring example that directly led to the first Goal by Rapids… Songo’o was in a “potential” one-v-one with the Rapids midfielder just above and outside the left of our 18 yard box… instead of closing, shutting down, tackling and battling to gain possession deep in our zone he dropped back and simply allowed the player to play an easy ball back to the wing; the winger got the ball – did a quick cross-over turn, blew past Smith, and slotted a great cross into the 6 yard box – Castrillion slotted home an easy goal.

Set pieces: We did well to defend their set-pieces – the simple totals were 14 free kicks and corners for Rapids (resulting in no goals) and 7 free kicks and corners for Timbers (resulting in no goals) – the small amount of set-pieces should reinforce to most that this game and the majority of play was won in the central midfield. Lorentowicz did a great job for Rapids in marshalling the midfield – he controlled, ran and set the example for a crushing, smothering midfield. Sure we had a little bit of ball movement in attacking but in total I don’t think we played more than 6 crosses throughout the 90 minutes; which means we weren’t getting the ball down our wings. The Rapids as well had less than 10 crosses but on two of them they scored. The lack of total numbers of crosses should also be an indicator of how this game was one and lost in the central midfield.

I already plotted my thoughts on what led to goal 1 so here’s my thoughts about goal 2… again the defensive midfield play led to this one. However you slice it the bottom line was that the lack of control and space above and outside the 18 yard box; an area that was also the responsibility of Songo’o; led to this goal. Clearly Spencer felt the same way as less than a few minutes later Songo’o was pulled for Alexander (a very rare move for any head coach to make is to sub a player, who is not injured, in the first half). As Songo’o left the pitch you could see he was ‘not happy’. I’m sure there will be plenty of follow on discussions about this substitution and the trust or mistrust that exists or doesn’t exist between Spencer and his players; for me that is all very unclear at this time. Bottom line – Songo’o didn’t do his defensive job – he got pulled for it… he got embarrassed by it… he has got to deal with it…

Left-Wing Play: Not sure what else I can cover on this area that hasn’t already been said earlier – bottom line here is we had less than 5 crosses come in from the left – why – because the space and passing and moves to get us into that position were again shut down by the Rapids midfield…

I did see one thing that was unusual and very interesting early on – when we had a free kick just inside the midfield line on the right side of the pitch Spencer brought Smith over from his left-back position to play an in-swinging free kick as opposed to having an out-swinger from Capt Jack… tactically a good move to try and maximize the advantages of an in-swinging ball on a free kick.

Nagbe: IMHO Nagbe is not and did not play what I would call an attacking and controlling central midfielder – I think he has the skills but I don’t think he displays the mental maturity in playing this role. Overall he won very few one-v-one battles for possession and also attempted very few aggressive moves to create a “potential” one-v-one battle. Bottom line here is that Lorentowicz dominated and shut Nagbe down.

IMHO, in order for Nagbe to be physically effective at this stage in his mental development he needs to have his wingers help him create space – he doesn’t get that with Zizzo and the wing play on the left side pretty much shut down when Songo’o was pulled… As for the right side – for me the loss of KAH was glaring; we had two crosses come in from the right the whole game – that translates to no effective right side play which pretty much means Lorentowicz has nothing else really to do but man-mark Nagbe – he did – he won that battle and he won that war… conversely I did not see Nagbe attempting to man-mark Lorentowicz at all; I cannot recall one tackle where Nagbe took possession of the ball away from Lorentowicz; maybe others have an example of where Nagbe won a one-v-one against Lorentowicz.

Finally, I think I heard Spencer say something along the lines of (to paraphrase maybe) ‘Nagbe needs to force his presence in the game; he has the skills’… hmmm… I agree with that to an extent; IMHO Nagbe has the physical skills to do that but I don’t sense that he (Nagbe) has the mental skills to do that YET – he is young and still learning the game. To Spencer I say – bullocks mate – you need to take responsibility not slough it off on a player…

IMHO; to make effective use of Nagbe’s skills he needs to run a different system or put him on the wing and run 5 midfielders when both Nagbe and KAH are healthy; until that time we will have to battle extremely had to win the midfield.

What does running 5 midfielders mean – we change our system to either a 3-5-2 or 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1) With our center-backs we have the players to run a 3-5-2… We have a number of midfielders but skills vary – how they would line up for a 4-5-1 is something I will spend some time on when I blog my next LOGJAM in the midfield article.

Lastly – the third goal in this game was meaningless; a 2-nil loss is no different that a 3-nil loss. And, although we heard that the altitude was not supposed to impact professional players in doing their job it did; as the game wore on many of the guys production and activity reduced considerably; hard breathing could be seen quite clearly… and outside of Songo’o the two players to come off in the game were the two players with the fewest minutes in a high altitude game, Boyd and Smith.

MOTM for the game was clearly Lorentowicz IMHO – for Timbers Horst stood big again – that is the third game in a row where he has held strong and played solid. BIG loss – we lose Chara in our next game – yellow card total infractions…

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.