Match Analysis (Timbers 1 – Real 2) & More…

In a return to tradition after the departure from my last match analysis I suggest you get a cup or pint of your favorite bevvy and settle in…(this one may be a wee bit long so thanks in advance for your patience).

To open, and work from, I’d like to offer up the quotes by Gavin Wilkinson after this game; not for reasons to agree or disagree but use as a platform for thoughts I submit for your consideration as this year winds down and PTFC prepares for DC United and the really HUGE game against Seattle.

The first quote from Gavin Wilkinson: Overall thoughts on the match…

“I think in the first half, we gave them a little bit too much space, a little too much respect and they’re a very good team in keeping the ball. We kept the ball, but it wasn’t in dangerous areas, and Nick Rimando pulled off an absolutely fabulous save to be honest. We went into the half 2-0 down, but in the second half I think the boys responded very, very well. They were positive in the way that they played. We tried to have a little bit more purpose to our possession, and we were unlucky not to score a second.”

  1. To be fair that is probably a pretty good assessment a ½ hour after the game. In considering the amount of time PTFC gave RSL, on the ball, during this match I would agree. For example, as best I could, I tried to pick out a number of times during this match to try and count the number of seconds PTFC took to “close down” and attempt to “re-win” the ball. For the most part it seemed to me that it took PTFC as many as 5 to 6 seconds to “close-down” and sometimes as many as 10 seconds, or longer, to try and “re-win” the ball.

  2. Now that might not seem like much time but when you consider it only takes about 1 to 2 seconds to receive, touch and then pass a ball onwards that amount of time can be quite huge and can give the opponent a big advantage in ‘further controlling the ball’. Now why did I choose this as my example? The reason is simply down to what standard some of the higher first class teams have set for themselves and tracked. In watching the EPL, as well as the Champions League, it appears teams are beginning to track this with the aim of trying to recapture the ball within 6 or more seconds. That’s not just to “close down” but to “re-win” the ball in as few as 6 seconds.

  3. Of course that is an extremely hard target to shoot for and I don’t know if that is realistic or unrealistic in MLS; others with more time in this league may have a better idea? Even so, perhaps, as time passes, PTFC does consider the need to begin to track and trend “close-downs” to “re-win” the ball so that they might find a way to improve defensively? Others may see this as a bridge to far but I think it’s a worthy target to put on the wall. You don’t get better unless you set goals to get better and in my opinion anytime you can use statistics to measure improvement the better your chances of getting better in defense. For now it is unclear to me if PTFC log these types of stats; others may be able to speak to that better than I.

  4. Some might say that this approach (discussed above) may need to be tempered based upon where the ball is; I would agree. There are areas on the pitch that are less dangerous than others and chasing center-backs, willy-nilly, just to get some statistic up is bollocks and will quickly wear down a striker. Perhaps where this may have more meaning/value is when the opponent is in the PTFC defending half?

  5. The RSL goalkeeper save on Wallace – wicked reaction and a wicked save; should be save of the week but others have no doubt already voiced those thoughts with more grace. For me, Wallace got great height and great position and it took a monumental save to stop that goal; maybe save of the year???

  6. During this game, or right after, I tweeted that it appeared to me that Caleb Porter’s fingerprints were all over this game. There are three reasons why I thought that.
    a. The first was the quick response (at halftime) to move to a more basic 4-4-2 in lieu of continuing to run the 4-3-3. PTFC ran a 4-3-3 against RSL the last game and lost that one 3-nil and I can’t recall (at this time) when Gavin has been so quick to respond with a formation change in the second half. Hence my offering that this may have been a pre-determined tactical move discussed before the game. And since we know, based upon the telecast, that Caleb Porter has been directly involved in player selection and rotation it only makes sense that some level of additional input may have been considered based upon certain outcomes at halftime.
    b. The second reason was the removal of Steve Smith for Bright Dike and the insertion of Rodney Wallace in the back-four from midfield. There were two good things to come from this; one we gained an attacking player and two, and most probably less noticeable, was PTFC effectively shut down an RSL avenue of attack. Why do I offer that? For those who like statistics you’ll like this one. 80% of all attacking/penetration into the PTFC defending half came down their right (the PTFC left) during the 1st half of this game; after Wallace moved to left fullback the overall penetration down the PTFC left dropped to 65%.
    c. The third reason why I thought Caleb Porters fingerprints were all over this game was because of the bold substitution of Eric Alexander for Kosuke Kimura! For me that screamed loudly of being a Caleb Porter decision based upon the few Akron Zips games/videos I have watched and the info others have shared with me. Not only did Zizzo do fine in that fullback slot but his presence (if he can really defend) opens up some huge alternatives to PTFC’s attack that haven’t been there in the past.

The second quote from Gavin Wilkinson: On changes that should have been made for the set pieces…

“The first one, we should have pressured. They changed the point of attack on us and we should have had a man charge it. We will address it as a coaching staff and take responsibility for it. The players have worked really hard and we’ll continue to look for ways to move forward.”

  1. I concur 100% that the coaching staff should address and take full responsibility for this breakdown but I would offer that “man-charging” the free kick is not the primary issue. The whole answer should include instilling the discipline in his wall to ‘stand-fast’ with respect to the space that the wall occupies. The keeper needs to rely on that wall doing its job; in the instance of the first goal it didn’t.

  2. How do I know this? As mentioned before in other blogs this game is brutal when it comes time to address mistakes and identify where errors in judgment occur. In this case there is clear evidence in the taped replay that Danny Mwanga moved his feet position/body in that wall slightly forward and right of his starting position; this movement created the space for the ball to travel through on goal. There really is no way a goal keeper ever would anticipate that a low strike of that nature would ever penetrate the wall.

The third quote from Gavin Wilkinson: On the team’s performance…

“We kept challenging them. We challenged them at halftime. To come into Salt Lake and be at 2-0 at halftime and wonder how it’s happened…two set pieces and when you’ve got quality people taking them it’s very dangerous. The second one was fantastic. I thought Bright Dike came on and added a bit of life. I would like to do a little more in the final third. I think that comes with maturity. I think the possession stance of this team has changed dramatically from what they were. We look a lot more comfortable with the ball, but results are what it takes.”

  1. Set pieces win games! – I have offered this quip before and no doubt will throw it out there for the wolves to feed on again. There were two critical fouls in this game that directly led to goals and like the mistake indicated above, with respect to the wall, it was clear that in both cases Jack Jewsbury was just about a step behind. To be fair it’s quite harsh to treat these two mistakes the same as the ‘wall’ mistake so I won’t. I would offer Capt Jack took full responsibility given this quote from him after the game. “Well we obviously got punished off the two free kicks…”

  2. An additional consideration is that Jack has logged a ton of minutes this year and played some very good games since being brought back into the middle; he may just simply have some tired legs. Others may have a better feel for this thought but perhaps Jack gets a breather and sits this next game to ensure he is fresh and ready to go for the Seattle Sounders Cascadia Cup battle?

  3. Bright Dike did come on and add value – good move and his front-back rotation with Danny was better than Wednesday’s game. As Gavin indicates, with more time, this will get better but how does that translate to the expected approach by Caleb Porter?

  4. As for Danny Mwanga here’s an interesting blurb I caught during the game day telecast. Danny Mwanga was asked “if he were the manager where would he play himself”? To paraphrase Danny he indicated he would work to his strengths; look to get on the ball, make runs directly at the defense and shoot. Like my question in the above paragraph; how does that thinking by Danny translate to the expected approach by Caleb Porter?

  5. PTFC have at least two young strikers waiting in the wings who have yet to have substantial playing time since the announcement to bring Caleb Porter was made. Both Sebastian Rincon (18) and Jose Adolfo Valencia (20) are good sized, (6’1”) highly skilled, quick, young and eager to get some playing time. How do those two young lads fit in when considering the skills that Danny (21), Bright (25) and Mike Fucito (26) bring to the table and the expected approach by Caleb Porter?

  6. I probably don’t need to go into detail on this one but as I tweeted before the match …Arlo White confirms that Gavin Wilkinson confirms that Kris Boyd has probably played his last game for PTFC…

The fourth quote from Gavin Wilkinson: On Portland’s struggle to get a win on the road this season …

“Great question…I think with the New York game, the Toronto game, the San Jose game…there have been some good performances on the road. Tonight wasn’t a bad performance from us. There have been teams that have come in here, and done less against Salt Lake, and picked up a better result. As a coaching staff we’ll take responsibility and analyze it, look at what differences we could have made, and see a way to move forward. I think on the road, we just have to keep the ball, especially in places with high altitude. When you come into a place like Salt Lake, you can’t just expect to defend for 90 minutes. I think we did a better job in moving the ball, keeping the ball, and at times we played better soccer, but they capitalized on their chances.”

  1. Some good thoughts by Gavin Wilkinson about taking responsibility to get better and analyze/look for differences as a way to move forward. In considering that here are some additional thoughts that others may agree or disagree with.

  2. RSL was very good in possession with a purpose; the example I draw from isn’t a one-time example but one more of consistency in ball movement and positioning that led to the 80% penetration in the first half down their right (the PTFC left). If you cast your eyes ‘around-the-ball’ as opposed to ‘on-the-ball’ notice the spacing of RSL players relative to the ball.

  3. For the better part of this game RSL looked to get as many as 4/5 or 5/6 players ‘regularly’ around the ball within the space of “about” 15-20-25 yards. In comparison, when looking at the regularity of spacing by PTFC players around the ball it doesn’t appear that PTFC get that level of commitment. For me, it appears that PTFC usually get only 2-3-4 players ‘around-the-ball’. Perhaps this of players ‘around-the-ball’ needs to increase in order for PTFC to be more successful in controlled possession of the ball?

  4. In watching Franck last night I remain steadfastly stubborn and stubbornly steadfast that he is the machine that gets this team direct penetration. His non-presence on the pitch when Kalif Alhassan came on was glaring in the final 10 minutes. I would also offer that Franck made it a point, that game, to vary his attack; there were almost equal amounts of attempted penetrations lateral and atop the 18 yard box as well as down and wide of the 18 yard box. Giving Franck a full 90 minutes is critical to winning the Cascadia Cup.

  5. I would submit that there may be value and benefit for PTFC to review all game footage this year to see how often opposing teams have attempted to attack down the PTFC left versus right. I’m not suggesting that there is going to be anything that pops up and hits anyone square in the face but in the time I have been watching these games closely it would appear to me that the opponents’ trend towards driving down the PTFC left as opposed to right.

  6. In considering the overall away record and results of those games I would offer that the 4-3-3 is not an appropriate formation to run; perhaps a more basic 4-4-2 or a more defensive (to shut down those wing penetrations) 4-3-2-1 may warrant additional consideration?

  7. In considering the 4-3-2-1 and the most recent move to have Sal Zizzo play right fullback I wonder how effective a lineup like this may be against Seattle?
    a. Defenders (4) Zizzo, Mosquera, Horst, Wallace
    b. Midfield (3) Nagbe, Jewsbury, Chara
    c. Midfield (2) Alhassan, Songo’o
    d. Center-Forward (Dike?/Mwanga?)

The fifth quote from Gavin Wilkinson: On moving on from the loss…

“We are maturing as a team. The last time we were here we lost 3-0 and I don’t think we even had a shot. I think the performance tonight was a lot, lot better. We’ve played three decent opponents and have been lucky enough to come out with two wins. Rimando I thought showed his quality tonight. Now we’re playing DC at home, in front of our fans and we still owe them an awful lot, two road games which are very important, and then San Jose again at home; and that’ll be a very interesting game.”

  1. To be honest I’m not real sure how to approach these final thoughts from Gavin Wilkinson. He just saw his team score a cracking goal during the run of play and another bounce of the post after seeing his team give up two goals from set-pieces. I would offer Gavin Wilkinson was probably disheartened about this game and struggled not to show it too much.

In closing a final thought or two for your consideration:

  1. Should be an exciting game this weekend; DC United are battling for position in the playoffs so they will bring some energy to this game.

  2. Like this last game I won’t be offering up a detailed “What to Watch For” (WTWF); simply stated I will be tracking substitutions and some info on penetrations and tendencies of DC United; I have yet to see them play this year.

  3. Finally, in considering the surprise move on having Sal Zizzo rotate into the right fullback slot I was surprised that no-one took the time to ask him about that during his interview after the game. I will make time this week to pop by and find out Sal’s thoughts on that.

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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, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.

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