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Match Analysis (Timbers 2 – White Caps 1)

My apologies up front for taking so long to get to this; I’m in Cincinnati this week and just a lot going on right now…
With it being Thursday afternoon already I figure you’ve probably read the match reports and maybe even forgot a thing or two from the game as the Friday match looms closer.
With that said you may have also forgotten what my WTWF’s were; so here they are again in brief format:

1 = Darlington Nagbe – Basically what I offered up was that we needed to see more of Darlington Nagbe like we have the last two games. And did we ever; he wasn’t just present to block passing lanes.

2 = Some questions on the 1) Formation we play, 2) Who slots in for Diego Chara and the impact, 3) What about Kris Boyd, 4) Kalif Alhassan and subs @ 75’ minute mark or earlier, and 5) Who’s the target striker?

3 = Strategy of long balls or possession play.

4 = The run of play for Timbers based upon how the White Caps may like to counter the recent success PTFC has had in scoring goals on the counter attack.
Now for the chase…

WTWF 1 – Darlington Nagbe – I hope most would agree that Darlington Nagbe had a superb game; and not because he scored the initial goal. That was icing on the cake for me. Bottom line up front (BLUF) Darlington Nagbe hustled and got back on defense (and not just to a space) – but to White Cap players. He closed and closed effectively.

In addition he was aggressive on the attacking side of the pitch to include providing penetrating passes and good leads out wide. All in all this is the best all around performance I have seen from Nagbe.

Others may have a different view but even if he hadn’t scored a goal I would be giving him Man of the Match. If youth coaches DVR games like this for teaching and instructing then the performance by Nagbe (and others) this game will provide some great examples to talk to. A key talking point for me might be to study the overall team movement of the ball in and around the top of the 18 yard box as well as the continued threat from our wings. The greater the actual (or threat of) penetration from our wings the greater advantage PTFC gets when they penetrate parallel to the top of the 18 yard box.

I didn’t specifically count the number of times we ran parallel to the top of the 18 but it seemed to occur more this game than I have seen in the past; this will be something I specifically watch for in Friday’s game as well. The more Timbers vary that penetration the more dangerous they become in attack.
Think back to the old style of attack under Spencer and our trends of overlapping fullbacks 20 or more times a game to deliver crosses. That style is gone.

WTWF 2 – Five questions:
1. Formation we played: Well the announced formation and the formation put on paper was the 4-3-3. My intent here was to log in some info relative to the away formation versus the home formation as the season progresses under the leadership of Sean McAuley and Gavin Wilkinson. I’d like to add some thoughts here on Caleb Porter but I’ve only heard rumors at this point so I will reserve comment until an official announcement is made.

  1. I was curious as to who would slot in for Diego Chara and how that might impact the attacking half of the midfield. Eric Alexander got the head nod and while he looked slightly tentative early on he did settle in and play his role effectively the whole game. A nice touch for Eric also provided him an assist on the first goal by Darlington Nagbe.

  2. Did we see Kris Boyd return to the lineup? Short answer here is no. Instead we saw Bright Dike return for his second start in a row. Great move by the front office in considering what strengths Dike brings to the pitch but some pause for thought and comment here is due. Kris Boyd, be it good or bad, represents a huge budget investment by PTFC to the tune of $1.5M; almost 1/3 of the overall budget investment on this team. What does this say? IMHO I would offer that this really etches in stone the teams’ commitment to the youth movement. I could offer some more thoughts for consideration but will hold off on those until seeing whether or not PTFC continues to go with youth. Is there a pending trade involving Kris Boyd coming up anytime soon?

  3. Do we see Kalif Alhassan come on as a sub? We didn’t; and he didn’t dress as one – it appears he has some tenderness in his knees. Indications are he may be ready for Friday but for now it’s a bit unclear to me. Of note though, PTFC continues to sub around the 75’ minute mark or later. This goes against the traditional trend of the 60’ minute mark but perhaps with the new training regimen, PTFC is able to get more from the lads for a longer period of time? I will continue to watch how this develops the remainder of this year.

  4. Target striker? For the game on Saturday it appeared Bright Dike was the primary target for long balls from the back-four and square one but with both Songo’o and Zizzo playing more forward roles they were targeted as well. I will watch to see if this trend continues the remainder of this season.

WTWF 3 = Long balls versus possession play. With the White Caps playing back a bit we (almost by default) had more possession play in the midfield. And with that our long balls from the back – four were pretty limited. It was almost like watching how the Red Bulls played against PTFC in their home match. So I guess what I am saying is that the White Caps were looking to play off the counter-attack and they were willing to sacrifice ball possession to do that. That is not to take away from our developing ball possession in the center but it’s important to not only consider how we play but how the opposing team plays when adding up ball possession numbers.

WTWF 4 = So the ‘run of play’ was influenced just as much by the defensive (counter attacking approach) taken by the White Caps as the internal ball movement by the Timbers.

A few additional observations:
1. At the 44’ minute mark Capt Jack Jewsbury probably saved a goal; as Horst and Smith were pulled wide out left he slid into a center back role and played a brilliant defensive header on a cross in-between Horst and Mosquera.

  1. We were unlucky that the complete miss-hit by Thorrington, in the box at the 45’ minute mark landed at the feet of an unmarked Miller. The back side of the 18 yard box needs to be watched at all times and I’m sure that was a discussion point when watching film earlier this week.

All told a very impressive display of movement on and off that ball by the Timbers and a well deserved 3 points in that critical Cascadia Cup match game. My apologies again for taking so long to get to this and I hope PTFC can continue this improved play in Friday night’s game.

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.