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What To Watch For (Timbers vs Chivas) Saturday 8:00 PM, July 28

Well a good place to start on my WTWF for this weekends game against Chivas would be where we left off in our last game with Chivas; which we lost 1-nil. To refresh your memory here is a link to my match analysis done after that game: http://www.columbian.com/weblogs/port…

In doing that let’s review the post-game quote from Gavin Wilkinson in answer to this question “Thoughts on the game?”:

His reponse is as follows: “I think in the first half we lacked a little bit of energy, we lacked imagination, we lacked creativity – our ball speed was a little bit poor and individual areas cost us the goal. I think our shape was by and large a lot better and going into the second half we picked up the tempo a little bit and we started to press a lot higher.”

So let’s consider ‘our shape’ as my first WTWF. In the second half Gavin Wilkinson moved Darlington Nagbe out wide left and moved Kalif Alhassan in the the center a bit more and moved Eric Alexander out right. But this move was predicated on running a 4-5-1 system of play which I don’t think he will run this game. Eventually we saw Franck Songo’o replace (61′) and the left side picked up even more.

Given the return of 100% healthy Franck Songo’o to the side; who was out for the first half of the last game I envision seeing him, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan and Eric Alexander starting and running the midfield in a front-to-back 4-4-2. So with having all four midfielders mentioned earlier present I would offer that if we see Nagbe it will be as a striker or as a 2nd half substitution given the scoreline, run of play or formation run (4-4-2).

If we do run a 4-5-1 (or derivative of that) we might see Nagbe out wide left with Songo’o and Alexander and KAH having a bit more freedom to rotate in and around the center and the right. I’m not sure we will see the pairing of Jack Jewsbury with Diego Chara in the midfield the rest of this season; not with Brent Richards, Freddie Braun and the return of Rodney Wallace all needing playing time in that area as well.

As a reminder in the second half against Chivas we actually doubled the number of crosses from both sides and increased crosses increases the opportunity to score.

Now, how do we line up in the back four and defending. Again let’s revisit a quote from Gavin Wilkinson after the previous game against Chivas. The question: On what Portland did well and what the team must improve on? “I think our defending one-on-one. I think in the middle of the park we did a decent job and we got isolated out wide and we need to do a better job of dictating play, even in our defensive third.”

So what does that mean for tomorrow nights game? Well I’m hoping we see a tighter formation with the back-four starting with our fullbacks. For me it’s pretty simple; play tight, if there is the need to rotate out left or right do it as a group of four and look for the off-side winger to fill in the back post.

I have always felt and thought, and will continue to do so that the best teams work from the back to the front in considering defense first. So my second WTWF will be our ‘back-four’ and how well they work together. Perhaps we see Steve Smith return; this is likely if he is fully healed; if not might we see Rodney Wallace in lieu of Mike Chabala as well? Whoever we slot in there they must be disciplined and much better at defending the one-on-one as referenced in Gavin Wilkinson’s quote. If the winger/striker for Chivas is quicker than our left fullback(s), and I think he is, then they need to “lay off” a bit, not over-commit and definitely not leave their feet. We could be in for a long night otherwise.

With respect to the right side I imagine we will see Kosuke Kimura out there again but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Jack Jewsbury return on the right and perhaps even see Kosuke Kimura on the left.

For our center-backs I am hopeful we see David Horst return to pair with Futty Danzo as I think that pairing is much stronger on a more narrow pitch than any other with Eric Brunner still being sidelined.

It would be refreshing to see Brunner ‘kitted-up’ as a potential sub but I have not heard anything that may indicate he is ready to return. I’m not against Hanyer Mosquera but I do feel that the communication and discipline of staying higher is better with Horst and Danso paired up than with any other center-back pairing at this time.

As for my next WTWF; I believe it will be our ‘striking partnership’ of Kris Boyd and Danny Mwanga. For now, IMHO, I think the days of running the lone striker are over and I fully expect to see some formation with a two-striker pairing. I suppose that means three of these (five?) players (Darlington Nagbe, Kris Boyd, Danny Mwanga, Mike Fucito, and Bright Dike) will sit for at least the first half given my prognostication of who our starting midfield is.

This is a tough call for me because I really love the attacking skill Nagbe brings to the pitch; but as a ‘think defense and work ethic guy first’ my gut says Darlington Nagbe is on the subs bench.

Would I be surprised if he started? No; there are many different options available to Gavin Wilkinson to start this game but I sense work ethic is a top consideration for him in the future on who gets the run-out first. A partnership of Nagbe and Boyd is just as dangerous as Mwanga and Boyd but we have had a tendency of late to play a large number of long balls and if an aerial battle occurs Mwanga and Boyd can both provide a ‘potential target objective’ better.

Both Fucito and Dike both showed an excessively high amount of work ethic in our most recent ‘friendly’ that wasn’t a ‘friendly’ and it seems reasonable to me that Gavin will reward those with a higher work ethic first. Let’s also not forget about Brent Richards; he is young, has energy, has a very high work ethic and most definitely shows the capacity and capability to rotate in and around and alter his position on the pitch given the movement of others; that is truly a wickedly good characteristic for such a young player.

In closing, my three WTWF’s for this game are:
1) Our shape in the midfield and the corresponding work ethic
2) Our back-four and their corresponding work ethic
3) Our striking partnership and their corresponding work ethic.

Here’s hoping our Timbers get 3 points and a long overdue win!

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.