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Match Analysis (Timbers 1 – Rapids nil) Friday – Jeld-Wen Field

A WIN and a CLEAN SHEET! Brilliant!

Get your favorite bevvy, something to eat and settle in.

  1. For me the result matters but it shouldn’t be upstaged by the CLEAN SHEET. To often PTFC has failed to finish a game and it was clear to me as the second half began that the first and foremost approach was to hunker down and play aggressive – defensive – counter-attacking soccer.

  2. To wit – BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) Timbers win for the second game in a row and climb out of the Western Conference Cellar.

  3. Many of you may agree with NBC Sports that Bright Dike was the MOTM; I don’t however; not because Dike didn’t score a lovely goal. It was – but for me the true test of how well this team is getting better was the Clean Sheet. IMHO the “men of the match” are Hanyer Mosquera and David Horst. And as odd as it may sound I’m almost going into every game now expecting the Timbers to score; but to be truthful I don’t, yet, have that same confidence in their ability to keep a clean sheet.

  4. And I would offer that the Rapids really need to take a hard look at themselves and reassess their opponents. Here’s what I mean. There is a quote after the game by Hendry Thomas (their new Wigan Athletic signee).

On playing Portland again so soon on Wednesday:
“They’re a very difficult team. They were a little more concentrated in the middle of the field than I think we expected and we just have to keep working to get the best out of ourselves.”

If anyone in the Rapids organization had paid attention to the Timbers in the last month or so they should bloody well know that the Timbers midfield have gotten tougher, a lot tougher. I fully expect that the return match on Wednesday will be wicked. If Mullen is fit expect him to get even with some pretty hard tackles.

  1. So back to the Timbers. Here’s what Gavin Wilkinson had to say about the back-four after the game.

“[Colorado] had some chances, … [David] Horst and [Hanyer] Mosquera, I thought were first class. I think they challenged for everything, their understanding was fantastic, they played with urgency. They played with a lot of maturity. I think the second half, for me, was definitely not the way we wanted to play. It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win, and we’ve kept challenging the group to play with maturity and find a way to win. It was a good second half in many, many ways, and those two, I think, led by example.”

Couldn’t agree more and if you were really watching the Timbers you may have noticed that when the second half started they dropped back a wee bit and started to play off the counter. There is risk in this; especially at home, but with the solid play of our back-four and the sensible substitutions made by Wilkinson (75′ Alexander 4 Nagbe and 77′ Wallace for Songo’o) he did everything he could to bring on fresh (defensive minded) legs to close out the match.

  1. I’m not sure why Kris Boyd came on; IMHO I would offer it was simply to give his legs the opportunity to stretch and get the feel for being on the pitch again. I don’t see Kris with this team much longer. One observation is that although he did come on to provide some fresh legs and energy, IMHO, he didn’t. He seemed at a loss in the formation being run and in hindsight perhaps a more reasonable substitution might have been a more aggressive Mike Fucito or Danny Mwanga. But all’s fair and to keep Kris sitting (completely) for three straight games may have shattered his confidence in getting a look-in the remainder of this season.

  2. Some may offer this view is a bit rough around the edges but Boyd is a tough player and should be switched on enough to recognize that energy and first class movement on and off the ball is why Dike is starting and not him. There is no room on this team for a single minded player who only feels comfortable in one position doing just 3 or four things.

  3. In considering that I would again offer that Darlington Nagbe continues to improve. He is retaining his aggression, (smart aggression) and his movement on and off the ball to create space and make space for others. While being unlucky with the toe-chip late in the first half his play, along with Capt Jack, Franck Songo’o, Sal Zizzo and the ever present Diego Chara really closed down the two controlling midfielders for the Rapids.

  4. So after those energetic opening thoughts and quotes here’s a quick look at my WTWF and what occurred.

WTWF #1 – Penetrate the wings and the top of the 18 yard box. Simply stated – done – and done with aggression – not only did we provide key crosses to spread their defense we also attacked right down the center. Like last game with the lateral penetration from the side of the 18 we in turn this week went straight down their throat; again – Nagbe was unlucky and if not for some well placed tackles and pass interceptions we could have had two or three goals.

WTWF #2 – Overlapping – As predicted in my WTWF the key here would be overlapping by Smith when the opportunity presented itself and about 5-6 times this game there were good 1/2 chances created by timely overlaps from Smith. And like last game when success didn’t come our way we had someone quickly back-filling the space left by Smith. Good solid rotational defensive play. We even saw the occasion where Kimura made the overlapping move but with Zizzo basically controlling his wing there really wasn’t the need.

That is not to say Franck Songo’o didn’t control his wing; he did as well but there is a slightly different approach with Franck; with his foot skills he likes to directly challenge his defenders a bit more. And while this sometimes results in a loss of possession it also creates a dangerous defensive position that may open up a slot atop the 18 yard box. Variance in the penetration of the 18 is good; and the more the better as it becomes harder and harder to defend.

Not sure if you can tell it or not but the level of play and the continued progress in running this new system has got me on edge and eager to watch the next game. This Wednesdays’ test I think will be an even tougher test than the Red Bulls. If PTFC can squeeze in an early goal look for some huge pressure from the Rapids. I don’t think the energy the Red Bulls showed in clawing back from 2-nil down will come anywhere near how brutal Rapids will play if they go a goal down.

WTWF #3 – Set Pieces – I didn’t really see a lot of negative play by the Rapids all game and the pressure was frantic from the first 15′ on-wards. There was a slow point leading up the the 40′ minute mark but from that point forward the Rapids did everything they could to create goal scoring opportunities. With that approach and our attempt to play counter-attacking football the Rapids had the overwhelming number of set-piece opportunities compared to PTFC. I think I counted about 10 free kicks and corners for Colorado while PTFC only managed about 5.

WTWF #4 – Kris Boyd – I have already offered some thoughts on Kris and was surprised that John Strong opened up the ‘budget investment’ discussion on national TV; it seems that discussion has opened a few eyes across the national media now. it hasn’t been discussed before but perhaps it should be.

I expect Kris to be traded soon but I don’t expect that a first class organization like PTFC will just trade him for the sake of moving him; they will do their very best (just like with Mike Chabala) to find him a place where he can work to succeed.

WTWF #5 Back-four – It was not all rosy for the back-four this game; there were a number of occasions where they were spread out or simply not flat and not tight within the 18 but help from the midfield was there this time. In considering when those out of shape events occurred I would offer that someone using this game as a training tool might scroll to the 3′, 6′, 25′, 27′, 35′, 40′, 41′, and 50′ minute marks. I would also offer that the time leading up to the 32′ minute mark was a time of great pressure by the Rapids.

Times of importance I picked out for key center-back play by Horst or Mosquera included those around the 2′, 8′, 24′, 25′, 36′, 42′, 43′, 44′, 50′, 62′, 71′, 79′, 80′ and 89′ minute marks. Others may have a different view but when looking at the entirety of this game the back-four and the midfielders, getting behind the ball when we didn’t have the ball, got us our first point and the top-notch, top-flight, top-totty play of Chara to Nagbe to Zizzo to Dike got us the other two points.

Some additional observations/grist for the mill as PTFC moves on to Colorado.

  1. No excuses for the thin air – bollocks – this game will be tough for everyone – don’t want to hear it.

  2. In case you missed it the system of play for PTFC changed dramatically in the second half. This was a risk, a huge risk. In every game leading up to this point PTFC have conceded late goals by hunkering down but the difference here was the midfield. On every single occasion that I can remember when a back-four player was pulled wide we had a midfielder slide into, and, parallel with the other three defenders inside the 18.

  3. Somewhat missed in all this might be the fact that Donovan Ricketts had his first shut-out. I’m sure he is quite chuffed that he got his first piece of Timber – I hope his arm is okay – he made some wicked saves last night and it’s a well deserved slab of wood.

  4. Room for improvement – hard to address this one since we won the game last night but there were many times where we could have been tighter and flatter in the back-four – this should never go un-noticed and I’m hopeful that they spend some time going over their out-of-shape instances.

  5. This is a tough one because the variation from one wing to the other is good, very good, but as the Timbers play better and continue to take points other teams will study their play a bit closer. This is where variation in attack will be critical. Last night we saw PTFC drive straight into the 18 yard box as well as penetrate from the wings; the more often we vary this attack (with different players) the more dangerous we become.

  6. I am hopeful we begin to see Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chara look to penetrate from the wings as much as Franck Songo’o and Sal Zizzo look to penetration atop the 18 yard box. Man-marking players who rotate their position and responsibilities is very hard and it usually creates even more space for that one-time switch and early cross from the ‘sleepy’ side of the pitch.

  7. I must offer that the save by Matt Pickens (on Franck Songo’o deflected shot at the 44’03” minute mark) might very well be the save of the year. He was stretched one way and with a brutal deflection it wen the other. And if not for laying out horizontal to the goal that strike by Franck would have gone in.

  8. Horst won the coin flip again this game and at the 46′ minute mark his penetration into the attacking third almost resulted in Nagbe scoring his fourth goal in four games. In case you missed it Horst drove into the attacking half; laid the ball off for Songo’o who lined up a wicked curling low-ball cross into the box that Nagbe just missed with a toe-chip over an outstretched Pickens.

  9. It will be interesting as the season winds down and Caleb Porter comes in to run things. I imagine with such a great track record in college his scouting techniques have gotta be pretty strong. A continuous roll-over of talent is something that many soccer teams (world-wide) encounter all the time. Having a great approach to rotate and replace is critical.

  10. Gavin Wilkinson’s thoughts on taking this win into the match on Wednesday.

“I think we have to look at the momentum and the confidence. For us, we have to go in, we have to play a little bit better than we did in the second half, but I think we’re capable, and for me, it’s another box that as a group and a team we need to tick. We haven’t gone into Colorado and done well, so this is an opportunity for us to show that we are maturing as a team, and that we don’t have to go back to the drawing board, that we can continue to progress as a team, and that’s very, very important for us. That’ll be the main motivation, to say, ‘Can the starting 11 go again, and can we get the job done?’ Because now we’ve got a consistent starting group, with one or two people that can come in. I think the unity tonight, in the way in which we defended in the second half, showed that.”

Too true; there seems to be a standard formation for away and home games taking shape and the flexibility we see in the same players being able to take on these multiple roles is critical to the success of PTFC. I hope that Kalif Alhassan travels; his addition brings some devious trickery with the feet and can open up the game even more. Fro now I would offer the Timbers continue to work towards being balanced.

  1. Here’s an interesting quote from Colorado Rapids Head Coach Oscar Pareja – perhaps we have heard these same words before but from someone a little closer to home.

“At the moment we’re fighting for every game. It’s a quick turnaround for us and we’re looking forward to having them at home because there’s no doubt the boys were much better today. I have said many times and I don’t want to repeat it because it’s a lesson we don’t seem to learn – opportunities come and we have to score. It looks like something is missing on that final touch, that final pass and be accurate and finish. That will change the story of the games, it will change obviously the results. We end up again counting how many times we could have scored. But as professionals the only thing we have is to keep working and take what the game can give us.”

In closing: I don’t like to quote opposing teams to many times but if you think back about a month or so ago we were hearing the same things here and there was no sympathy from anyone in MLS.

So Bottom Line At The Bottom (BLATB) If the Rapids are down; keep them down. “There’s no pity in the Rose City”.

You can follow me on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ChrisGluckPTFC

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.