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Match Analysis (Timbers nil – Rapids 3) Wednesday 5 September

Been there done that – been there done that again!

Get that bevvy, your favorite treats/biscuits and settle in…

Before getting into my WTWF indulge me for a paragraph or four on a simple teaching point for youth soccer players. When defending there’s nothing wrong with having your back to the goal but your feet (if facing with your back to goal) should never ever be square with your shoulders. They should always be front to back. Why?

  1. Take a look at the 43” second mark of this game (if you DVR’d it) and look at the feet of Kosuke Kimura. They are square to his shoulders – watch how many steps behind he initially gets when the Rapids play a switching ball to the player he is defending. Kimura loses almost two full steps because he has to turn his whole body around to chase the ball and the player. If his feet are front to back it is far less dangerous and he probably (with his speed) makes a clean tackle 5-10 yards down the pitch, way before the player can get a shot on goal.

  2. To further drive this point home here’s a quote from Kosuke after the game. “The first 10 minutes I wasn’t on it. [Tony] Cascio had a chance to score a goal; he had an assist on one goal. It was an individual mistake I think. I thought we played good enough to create chances to get some points, but like I said an individual mistake let the team down.”

  3. There is goodness in owning up to mistakes on the pitch – this is a harsh game where individual performances that lead to goals are easily spotted. I also agree and admire the additional offerings provided by Kosuke later on. “I wanted to play well. Coach told me not to be too emotional, but I got caught up in the moment a little bit. I can’t let that happen in a game. It’s just 90 minutes, but if for just one minute you lose focus, it’s just going to kill you at the professional level. I put pressure on my shoulders today, but it didn’t come out well. Like I said, it’s a professional game and you can’t fix the past, but you’ve got to try to fix the future.” “… That’s how it is as a professional, so I’ve got to suck it up and I’ve got to keep moving forward.” Concur. Moving forward is Seattle next Saturday; that would be a grand day to have a great defensive game!

Thanks for your initial indulgence in a pet-peeve of mine (defense). With that short teaching moment out of my system here’s a refresher on my WTWF with this game.
1. Midfield and command of the midfield.
2. Long Balls versus Short Balls from Square one and the back-four.
3. Sustaining a high, tight and flat back-four.
4. Darlington Nagbe.
5. The Coin Flip

I will work #3 first; since that one had the single greatest impact on all the other WTWF’s as well as the game.

WTWF #3 = Sustaining a high, tight and flat back-four:

  1. PTFC failed miserably in man-marking (being tight) in the 6 and 18 yard box area. I marked off at least 15 occasions during the match where PTFC were out of shape and over half of those were related to one player.

  2. A quote by Steven Smith that might explain… “We lost the goal early on, and I think when you lose a goal early you have to open your game plan. We maybe lost the shape a little bit, but I don’t think (the result) was a fair reflection.”

  3. I respectively disagree with the entirety of his observation; when going a goal down a team should not lose shape and change their game plan; especially if it is only in the first 6 minutes of the match. Sorry, but I don’t buy it; complete bollocks; there still remains 84 more minutes to get that one goal back. IMHO it was a very fair reflection (the result) on how poorly PTFC played in defense.

  4. Individual performances directly impact team results on both sides of the pitch and as clearly stated by Gavin Wilkinson in a quote after the match.

  5. “You can’t come on the road and give up chances and make individual errors and that’s what cost us. We weren’t aware of players coming into the box, and I think you can isolate individual errors for goals.”

  6. All three goals were the direct result of poor man-marking and/or ball watching. Almost exactly like the 3-nil result last time PTFC visited Colorado. If memory serves there was only one goal that started and ended on the left side; all other goals started on the right and ended up being finished in the middle or the far left. If I were a gambling man we might see PTFC play a 4-3-2-1 the next time we travel to Colorado; but Caleb Porter will have that decision.

  7. Some additional thoughts for your consideration; I would offer that it is extremely critical that the amount of individual mistakes in the back four MUST go down in order for these players to sustain their individual positions on this team next year.

  8. Caleb Porter not only advocates tika-taka, his teams play tika-taka. Akron has had one of the most prestigious defending teams in college soccer. He clearly works from the back forwards and playing short balls reinforces that approach. In between now and the end of this season I would be surprised if Ryan Kawulok did not get more playing time. He has the pace, strength, and the height of a center-back who can play fullback.

  9. In set-pieces height wins; in defending to cover lost ground pace wins; in defending in tight places strength wins. He won’t get better sitting on the sidelines; the only games that really matter are the Cascadia Cup games, and we have three of those – one next Saturday and then two back-to-back in October – my offering is that Ryan begins to get playing time after the Seattle match.

On to the other WTWF’s in no particular order as their value was somewhat diminished with the two early goals.

WTWF #5 = The Coin Flip:

  1. This is a bit flippant really but when speaking with David Horst last week he saw the humor and liked it. What this really means is it’s a way to track who (Horst or Mosquera) wins a coin flip to penetrate into the attacking half of the pitch for the game. They don’t really do it but with Caleb Porter and his tika-taka style coming to Portland it might actually become a real strategy. But for now David confirmed that there is not a specific game plan to penetrate into the attacking half with a center-back…but…all the center-backs are aware of the advantages to doing this so there is value in paying closer attention to it as time passes.

  2. Most of you know this already but in case you didn’t – part of tika-taka also means any player in any position can take on the role of just about any other player in any other position. So when Spain ran a 4-6-0 formation in the Euro 2012 championship game what that really meant was that any one of the midfielders on the pitch, depending upon where they were, had to take on the responsibilities of a forward versus a traditional box-to-box midfielder. Wicked play and extremely difficult to defend. If Caleb Porter can get that approach to work here we may, in three years time, see PTFC as a world class team. Now – out of dreamland and back to reality!

  3. Bottom Line At The Bottom (BLATB) – Penetration from our center-backs deep into the attacking half had no real impact on this game. And with going two goals down no opportunities really presented either.

WTWF #2 = Long balls versus short balls from Square one and the back-four:

  1. Not a lot going on with this one and its overall impact on the game other than to say we played a good number of short balls out of square one because the majority of the game the Rapids were playing deep and allowing defensive-half ball possession.

  2. Likewise we also had a number of long balls played this game but they also fell short the majority of the time. All told it looked as if we lost possession on long balls nearly 75% of the time. The ray of sunshine I saw was the frequency of switched balls played to Sal Zizzo on the wing from David Horst; that occurred a number of times this game and possession on those was around 50%. Something to work from.

  3. BLATB – No real impact on this game. Opportunities occurred but the overall totals for long balls were very low compared to other games because the Rapids were quite happy to see PTFC pass the ball all day long in their own defending half.

WTWF # 1 – Midfield and midfield command:

  1. My initial hope for this game was that this WTWF would provide the grist on helping to analyze how the overall winner got the result and three points. Alas, not to be. As discussed the early goals and the apparent change in game plan buggered that up.

  2. Nonetheless an observation here before expanding on it while discussing Darlington Nagbe. In all the games I have seen this year I cannot recall a game where we attempted to penetrate as much as we did down the dead center of the 18 yard box. The Timbers were consistent in their consistency to consistently go in that direction. All told my notes show 10 or more occasions where PTFC attempted to penetrate right down the throat of the Rapids. If not for small errors on the touches/weights of those passes we may have had as many as 10 clear goal scoring opportunities. There is much to build on from this effort. And the more PTFC gets all the midfield players involved in those ‘atop the 18 yard box penetrations the better the players will adapt to tika-taka.

Okay – WTWF #4 = Darlington Nagbe:

  1. It is interesting that Arlo White mentioned during the game that perhaps the one thing missing from making DN a great player is – a wee bit more aggression. Talk about a broken record; it is good to hear that there are others out there with like minds.

  2. Now how about his play on Wednesday night; for me he was leaps and bounds over his last game in Colorado and he continues to show more fire in his belly about playing this game with more energy and more vision, on and off the ball. So when I saw the volume of activity in and atop the 18 yard box I saw that as a direct reflection on the success of DN beginning to drive and execute the attacking role his position requires.

  3. But that did not mean he didn’t get behind the ball; in every occasion where he could DN got back, and got back quickly. If you have read my earlier LOGJAM in the midfield blogs you’ll know I have tracked and charted what I thought were some significant weaknesses in his game. In going over those notes the only box remaining to get ‘ticked’ is the aggressive box.

  4. This doesn’t have to be the Diego Chara – aggressive – but it does mean he needs to get a wee bit more physical in his control of space. Hendry Thomas provided a great example of controlled aggression and DN would do well to study the game footage and mark Thomas’s style. Behaving like Zapata would be the wrong direction to go in.

  5. As for the how DN’s play and aggression develops remains to be seen but a critical thing for next year is that his head coach will know him and know him well. I would offer that Caleb will look to DN to be more engaged as a leader than he is this year. So along with aggression I will now begin to view DN with a discerning eye on leadership.

  6. It wouldn’t be cricket not to mention the continued strong play of Franck Songo’o, Sal Zizzo, Diego Chara (silly yellow card again!), and Jack Jewsbury. Bright Dike had a rough go on Wednesday and he will learn that he will have to adjust his runs and body movements accordingly so that he doesn’t present the exact same traits in the exact same places the exact same way. One thing I will offer however is that Bright continues to show significantly more energy on the pitch in his difficult role and IMHO a tired Bright Dike still gives this team more energy and opportunity than a fresh-legged Boyd.

  7. With Caleb Porter coming on board we might, might, might see one ‘traditional striker’ on this team – kind of like Torres for Chelsea. Otherwise I think we may see that the current striker group may change or be changed. I have yet to see if Danny Mwanga can take on a midfielders role; if he is going to expect playing time in a tika-taka environment he may do well to learn some in-depth midfielder roles and responsibilities if he doesn’t already know them.

In closing; thanks for your undivided or divided attention; you may have needed to refill your favorite bevvy; for that I don’t apologize ;).

BLATB: In case you missed it I am pretty jazzed that Caleb Porter is coming to PTFC. One opportunity I hadn’t considered until now, that it might add to this team, is our ability to bring in younger European players who want to learn to play the tika-taka way. Young players go with what will get them the best opportunity to get better; that is no doubt why so many young players gravitated to Akron. In having grown up 20 miles south of Akron I can honestly say, for me, it’s not the weather.

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.