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Match Analysis (Timbers 1 D. C. United 1) & More….

As usual a cup or pint of your favorite bevvy and some eats are probably in order as you settle in for a read.

To kick things off there’s a phrase every now and then that really means something in this game – ‘you need to have a short term memory in order to be successful’. While I abide by this in putting bad or good individual performances behind and looking to move on I would also offer that in order to be extremely successful it may be good to consider evaluating short term memory ‘things’ in order to see if there are ‘long term trends’. In an attempt to do that here are some opening thoughts for your consideration.

Short term memory ‘things’ about this last game:

  1. The referee and assistant referee had some issues in understanding the basic fundamentals/laws of this game and what was missed and called had a direct impact on the result. As with any other professional sports organization in the United States I would expect MLS to review ALL the calls from this game in order for the referee and the assistants to get better.

  2. I don’t want to cover this too much but Neal Buethe, Director of Media Relations for U. S. Soccer does confirm that “One of the goals is to increase our (MLS) full time referees from where we once had four, to having a lot more.” If you want to read up on some details about the MLS Professional Referee Organization check this link: http://www.insidemnsoccer.com/2012/03/02/u-s-soccer-and-mls-to-announce-newly-organized-professional-referee-organization-pro/

  3. Bottom line here for me is that if MLS wants to continue to attract quality international players they should take every step possible, as quickly as possible, to professionalize all MLS Officials.

  4. Dike provided a wicked equalizer near the end to help PTFC gain 1 point from an extremely well played game.

  5. Dike missed some potential ‘sitters’ in this game; over the long term it should be expected that his awareness on where he is relative to the keeper and the post(s) will get better.

  6. David Horst had some stellar tackles this game as well as a very questionable hand ball called against him in the box (why didn’t he get a red or yellow card for that?) All things considered that is definitely one to push into the short term memory banks.

  7. In closing, I believe there is value to logging down short term memory issues to see if there is a trend. Upon review of what I saw a couple of days ago there were no short term memory issues this game that have fit a recent pattern. I would however offer that there may be one or two that warrant consideration for the future.

With that said here are some things I saw that I think should go into the long term memory bank for PTFC:

  1. Rodney Wallace continues to impress and develop as a player in the central midfield while also providing great support to Steve Smith and Darlington Nagbe on the left. If I didn’t know better there were a few occasions where I thought Diego Chara was playing midfield this game; hard tackles, great work rate, range and improved positional play.

  2. In case you missed it sometime between the 15 to 18 minute mark PTFC went from a 4-3-3 to a hybrid that gave Franck Songo’o almost total freedom to rotate in and around the middle and attacking third of the pitch while moving Darlington Nagbe out wide left. This is not the first time that Darlington Nagbe has rotated out left and I don’t expect it will be the last time either; therefore I’m offering this trend may continue given certain playing conditions and who is on the pitch. If you click on this link it will take you to the MLS Chalkboard where you can pick out Franck and review his distribution, shots on goal and ball possession statistics to verify this change:http://www.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2012-09-29-por-v-dc/chalkboard. If further info is needed click on Darlington Nagbe to see his same events information.

  3. Bright Dike continues to get better at holding up the ball and sustaining possession for others to join the attack. Yes, he could have had a few better strikes on goal but those misses are for the short term memory bank, not this one. To contrast the expanded involvement by Bright take a look at his interaction as the sole striker against Colorado in the 1-nil win by PTFC here: http://www.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2012-08-31-por-v-col/chalkboard and compare that to his chalkboard distribution, shots and ball possession in the other link provided above. Clearly, the data indicates that Dike has expanded his positional sense and involvement in the game.

  4. I indicated above that Horst had some stellar tackles this game and most probably saved a shot or two on goal. While that speaks well to some individual play (short term) it may also warrant further evaluation in the long term. For me I have always felt that sliding tackles were a last ditch effort to prevent a goal and in most cases were done as a result of someone being out of position. If “stellar tackles” continue as a trend for PTFC each game perhaps there is an underlying issue where players are (defensively) out of position?

  5. One more offering about David Horst. About three months ago I spotted what I considered to be a short term memory ‘thing’ when I saw David Horst penetrate the attacking half of the pitch. I had never seen this before so in jest I labeled this as the ‘coin flip’. (In other words the two center-backs flip a coin and whoever calls it right gets to penetrate at least once during the game). Well the coin flip occurred again yesterday; for the fifth time in six games so, for me, the random penetration by one of the center-backs appears to be a developing long term trend.

  6. It’s not discussed specifically as a strategy, as far as I know, but it is a good thing and it provides a slight edge to the attack. Some may consider this as a bad thing as David is leaving ‘his area’ but if you check out the area, behind these moves by David or Hanyer, someone else picks up the slack and fills their void. Bottom line here for me is that any time there is (measured) variation penetrating the attacking half by the center-backs the better.

  7. I think Steven Smith continues to evolve as a mainstay at left back; in the last few games I would offer he is much more patient and prudent in his decision making about penetrating the attacking third and much more measured in his defending the box. For me, that defense first, defense second and attack third approach is solid and the more variation and random entry at odd, but timely, occasions the better PTFC will get at varying their approach to penetrate the 18 yard box.

  8. Joe Bendik. Short term trending to long term. If I had been logging short term successes over the last few weeks I would have added Joe to that list. He continues to impress, I see him as strong and reliable in the box and he appears to have the confidence of the back four. In my view this team loses nothing with Joe Bendik on the pitch in lieu of Donovan Ricketts.

  9. Kosuke Kimura and Sal Zizzo. Short term trending to long term. Over the last two games PTFC have pulled Kimura in favor of Sal Zizzo (late on) to free up Sal for a greater opportunity to penetrate deeper with a bit more space. I said last week this move was brilliant and I continue to remain stubbornly steadfast and steadfastly stubborn that it is. The more time Sal Zizzo’s see in the back four the more he will recall his days in playing fullback for Hannover 96. Does this type of rotation have huge upside when considering the current balance of PTFC on the wings and with the fullbacks? In my opinion, yes.

With all that information for your consideration a refill of your favorite bevvy may be in order. Pause, take a breath and now here’s some info on my WTWF’s but first a refresher on what they were; (1) Substitutions, (2) penetration by DC and where it came from and how that impacted the game, and (3) penetration from PTFC and where it came from and how that impacted the game.

First off the mark is Substitutions (WTWF #1):

  1. There were three substitutions in this game; the first was strictly made to replace Hanyer Mosquera with Futty Danso when Hanyer strained his hamstring. For me not a lot to consider about this one so what was the next one?

  2. The second substitution I’ve already touched on as something to track in the long term with respect to Sal Zizzo so here I will add some thoughts with respect to Danny Mwanga.

  3. Last week we saw Danny play out left and work his game from the left side of the midfield; this time we saw Danny come on and work to the right side of the pitch, As the season winds down it would be reasonable to expect that we may see Danny work more minutes up higher in the pitch as opposed to a striker and given his right foot he may be better suited on that side to work from direct balls played through by Sal Zizzo or crosses coming in from the left.

  4. The third substitution was more or less an opportunity for Gavin Wilkinson to get Brent Richards some real time playing right back. Taking on this role may continue to be something Brent does in the future.

On to the penetrations by DC United (WTWF #2):

  1. From Pontius after the game: On the physicality of the match:
    “Very physical. Every time you come play here it’s a tight field, so you know it’s going to be chippy and you prepare for that and you expect that. I thought they did a good job of winning some head balls and, me and Lio [Pajoy] are just trying to create as much havoc for them as possible, find good spots and hopefully make them make some decisions where we can force them out of their shape and get some looks on goal.”

  2. To be fair to Pontius he was missing his sidekick (De Rosario) so it’s hard to tell how these penetrations would have gone with him on the pitch. It is additionally of interest to note that all four primary midfielders (through all 90 minutes) seemed to rotate in and around many different positions across the center with no real patterns of penetration on the left or the right.

  3. But this is not the case though in the first 15 minutes. During that time DC United had attempted to penetrate about twice as many times down their right, the PTFC left.(6) on the left is what I counted and (4) on the right; others may have different numbers.

  4. So it is reasonable to offer that the insertion of Nagbe out wide left and the movement of Franck into and around the center may have had a direct impact on the resulting penetration approach taken by DC United the remainder of the game.

  5. All told the direct penetration by DC United was handled across the back four and PTFC was again unlucky when considering that call by the linesman?!?

On the penetrations by PTFC into the attacking half (WTWF #3):

  1. In reviewing my notes as well as the MLS chalkboard I would offer that it appeared PTFC provided a balanced approach to penetrating the attacking half of the pitch but was less balanced when looking to penetrate the 18 yard box.

  2. In all it appears that PTFC only attempted 2 or 3 balls down the heart of the 18 while there were multiple penetrations from the right as well as the left of the 18.

  3. Oddly enough though the primary area where almost all the shots on goal came from was the top center of the 18. So while PTFC wasn’t necessarily getting penetration into the 18 they were taking shots from atop the 18. This is good and shows that PTFC are making space to create space to use space in the most dangerous spot on the pitch. I will take a few extra minutes during this off season to look and see how much this pattern of shot selection has changed.

  4. In closing, the continued drive to penetrate the 18 yard box paid off; the work between Steven Smith (timely penetration) along with the vision and passing skills of Darlington Nagbe directly impacted the outcome of this game; a great goal and worthy touch by Bright.

Up next for me will be to take in the U-16’s and U-18’s this weekend before sliding into my lounger to watch the game against Seattle. I will try to jot down some notes and offer some thoughts/analysis about those games but will first work to get the Timbers match against the Sounders sorted out.

No What to Watch For this upcoming weekend against Seattle; quite simply there is everything to watch for and everything to play for. I would expect a full-on, in your face derby (pronounced darbee) that every single Timbers player will give every second of energy to try and win.

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.