Match Analysis (Timbers Nil – Sounders 3) & More…

Match Analysis Timbers Nil – Sounders 3

I closed out my previous match analysis with this thought; PTFC had everything to play for therefore there was everything to watch for.

That’s a wide net to throw over such an important game for PTFC and a real hard one to work from for this match analysis; I’ll try and do my best and ask your patience in advance as I wade through some thoughts and what I will call ‘oddities’ for your consideration.

As usual a cup or pint of your favorite bevy and some eats may be in order before settling in…

Let’s start from the beginning; the line-up.

  1. As I understand it Hanyer Mosquera was a late scratch and Futty Danso was his replacement; we have seen this as a normal course of action so my initial thoughts were ‘fair enough’.

  2. What was interesting to me however, and I leave this for you to decide, was who got selected as the right and left fullbacks; individually we have seen both Rodney Wallace and Lovel Palmer take on the fullback slots separately but I don’t recall that ever occurring together; perhaps others have seen this in the past?

  3. Last but not least; especially with how he has been playing we saw David Horst selected as the other center-back. On the surface these four players working together may not be unusual in a late game situation but to start a game it seemed unusual to me given that both Kosuke Kimura and Steve Smith were/are healthy.

  4. So I guess what I am saying is it was very unusual to see 3 of 4 players starting this game who have not recently started a game together. In conclusion I would have thought the PTFC might have set better conditions for success by running the familiar grouping of Kimura, Smith, and Horst alongside the replacement by Danso as opposed to not oft used Palmer and Wallace; oddity #1.

  5. Just to be clear I do not offer those conditions as a negative on the recent play of Lovel Palmer or Rodney Wallace individually; but Palmer has less speed than Kimura and Wallace has been known as someone who tends to roam a bit too much; even GW has indicated in previous games he has had to rein in Rodney somewhat. So, when considering a conservative approach, where only 1 point is needed to secure the Cascadia Cup, would a back-four that is more familiar with each other provided more value and benefit?

As for the initial midfield/forward formation I would offer that we have all seen this group of players on the pitch before in similar positions and having a return to the lineup by Diego Chara was a welcome sight.

  1. Unusual for me however is that PTFC again opened up in an away game with a 4-3-3 alignment; a formation that is typically offensive/aggressive in nature and not a formation that I would offer is of the norm when only 1 point is needed to secure the Cascadia Cup.

  2. Would a more appropriate/boring formation been a 4-4-2; especially when considering the recent success in scoring/defending goals in away games?

  3. I seem to recall that on a number of recent/previous away game efforts PTFC have started in a 4-3-3 and converted into a 4-4-2 when things didn’t go well. In considering that perhaps the conditions for success may have been better running a 4-4-2?

  4. This is not to say that the appropriate midfielders and forwards were wrong; on the other hand we have seen quite a bit of success when Songo’o has moved into a ‘free’ role in the midfield while Nagbe has rotated out left. However viewed, I would offer that the starting formation, in my view was oddity #2.

So with these offerings on the starting lineup and formation here’s some info for you to consider in seeing how some things played out this game. But before doing that I want to present a caveat to this next section. I do not normally rely on other statistics to present my evaluations so I ask your forgiveness up front as my intent was to ‘watch this game’ from cradle to grave and enjoy it as it played out as opposed to ‘logging things for my blog’.

That said my primary source for statistical data this game was the MLS Chalkboard; I cannot speak to the overall validity of it but in listening to others most seem to agree that the information is very reliable.

  1. When you watched the game what PTFC player did you think or feel had the most influence/involvement in the game; my initial thoughts would be that the two or three primary players who should normally be the most influential in a game (most touches) would be Darlington Nagbe and Franck Songo’o with perhaps Diego Chara running a close third given his aggressive midfield style.

  2. If you initially agreed with me we would both be incorrect; when viewing the MLS Chalkboard the player with the most overall touches for PTFC this game was Rodney Wallace (74 touches and 5 shots); next in line was Jack Jewsbury (70 touches and 1 shot) and the third player, Lovel Palmer, (62 touches and 0 shots).

  3. I’m not sure what that might mean in the bigger scheme of things but will offer these for (possible?) conclusions:
    a. The Sounders did a great job of defending/man-marking PTFC’s most influential players; Nagbe only had 36 touches and 1 shot while Songo’o had just 44 touches and 6 shots.
    b. The Sounders attacking, when it occurred, was relentless and heavily geared towards the wings with somewhat special focus down the PTFC left (we have seen this before by other teams attacking PTFC). The same observation can be made with the recent home game; again the Timbers player with the most touches in that game was Rodney Wallace, as left fullback, with roughly 74 in total.
    c. The Timbers didn’t have a game plan that really stressed and reinforced the need to get their more highly skilled players on the ball; therefore with less influential players on the ball more often is it reasonable to expect that the result of this game was less favorable to PTFC?

  4. However sliced it just seems an oddity (#3) to me that the lesser influential players on this team (for this game) had more time/touches on the ball than the more highly skilled players.

In keeping with that philosophy – I have always felt and thought that the game is won or lost with the back-four and the ability to maintain ball possession in the midfield. In considering that a favorable outcome for this game was a draw does it really make sense that the fullbacks for this team would have a higher possession and ‘more engaged’ pattern of movement than the midfielders? Here are some examples using the MLS Chalkboard to set the stage:

  1. Here is a snapshot of the events filter for Rodney Wallace:

  2. By comparison to a recent game by Steven Smith playing the same left fullback position:

  3. Looking at it from a different point of view… here is the combined pattern of movement by Rodney Wallace and Lovel Palmer for this game:

  4. Here is the combined pattern of movement for Rodney Wallace and Kosuke Kimura in the last home game against Seattle:

  5. Now here is a combined pattern of movement by Steven Smith and Kosuke Kimura from the DC United game; this pattern also pretty much represents the standard pattern I saw when taking random samples from previous games this year:

  6. It would seem to me that the fullbacks had far greater freedom and overall involvement in this game than what we have seen from Steven Smith and Kosuke Kimura in the past.

  7. Here’s an interesting quote after the game from Gavin Wilkinson: On the result… “We were playing pretty well then went through a 10-minute spell there where we scored an own-goal and never recovered. It was a shame because there was some decent football being played up until that point and we dug a big, big hole for ourselves. The back line lost their shape and we were lucky for it to not be 3-0 down in the first half. I think Donovan [Ricketts] pulled off a phenomenal save, but once you’re 2-0 down you’ve got a big hill to climb.”

  8. In all fairness it’s quite hard to expect that a quote right after the game has real relevance as an accurate assessment as there are many emotions going through the system at that time. But when considering how things really went (as the video and other data for this game gets reviewed) I would offer that the ’10 minute spell’ was more like a 60 or 70 minute spell. And with having Rodney Wallace, Lovel Palmer, and Futty Danso not being regulars with David Horst it’s no wonder the back line lost their shape on a regular basis.

  9. For me, the overall “targeted outcome” for this game should have been a draw; regularly pushing the ball forward from the fullbacks, that bypass the midfield, should have not been a relevant strategy to get one point; controlled – short passes within and around the midfield should have been more appropriate. For me the pattern presented above does not indicate that strategy; therefore this was oddity #4.

  10. Before moving on; in my view PTFC have struggled all year in away games because the approach has been to try and win them; others (may?) have a very different view on this polarizing topic. One point is a great result in an away match and you can’t lose if you get a clean sheet but you can gain a draw, and in this case an away draw wins PTFC the Cascadia Cup, with this result it didn’t.

  11. Put another way I didn’t think it was just a ‘big-big hole’ –for me this was a “huge and inordinately large hole”. As a Timbers supporter I sure hope the midfielders and forwards have a greater role in the next game against Vancouver than they had in this game; getting the ball to their feet more often will go a long way towards giving them the opportunity to positively influence the outcome/result.

Speaking of Forwards; last week I offered up in my match analysis that it was a good trend to see the continued increase in involvement of play by Bright Dike and I even referenced two MLS chalkboard links; one showing his lack of involvement during the Colorado game and one showing his most recent play in last week’s game. As a refresher, here are those two links again with a third additional link (this Sunday’s game against Seattle).

  1. Here is the link for Bright Dike’s involvement in the 1-nil win by PTFC against Colorado: Caveat; Kris Boyd played this game as well but when you click on his events filter there is nothing to see.

  2. Here is the link showing Bright Dike’s involvement in the 1-1 draw with DC United:

  3. Here is the most recent link showing Bright Dike’s involvement in the 3-nil loss to Seattle:

  4. To be honest I was hopeful we would see a continuing positive trend to sustain more direct involvement in the game by Bright Dike; when upon review it actually shows that Bright Dike regressed back to his game against Colorado. In hindsight maybe the oddity was the DC United game when viewing the events filter of both Bright Dike (and Kris Boyd) throughout this year? I’m not sure; I will have to go through that information later.

  5. By contrast here is the same display of information for both Freddy Montero: and Eddie Johnson from this game:

  6. With that said PTFC did convert to a 4-4-2 early on again and the movement by Franck Songo’o closely resembled that of either Eddie Johnson or Freddy Montero:

  7. But when Mike Fucito came on as a second half substitute that approach appeared to go pear-shaped:

  8. Perhaps others may have some thoughts on this? For me I would offer that there appears to be a significant gap in how the midfielders and defenders communicate (with the ball) to the PTFC forwards and how the PTFC forwards inter-link/weave with midfielders. What appears to be progress in one game significantly digresses in the next. I’m not sure that is down to a great defending team or simply a reflection that PTFC simply couldn’t get the ball forward because they lacked accurate passing and ball control when it was pushed forward. For me that is oddity #5.

Next up is reviewing what tactical steps PTFC have taken in the past to ‘get the ball to those with more potential to influence a game’.

  1. I am not really sure why PTFC replaced Sal Zizzo with Mike Fucito; perhaps others can fill in some thoughts here?. I’m sure the hard work by Mike has lead to him being given an opportunity for additional minutes in a game but I’m trying to balance what that means relative to more recent tactical moves that had lead to more positive play and greater goal scoring opportunities.

  2. Clearly we have seen Franck Songo’o given more freedom of movement and to do this Darlington Nagbe has usually rotated out wide left and Songo’o has moved in towards the middle; playing what I would call a hybrid forward/midfielder; someone along the lines of Henry or Keane.

  3. In the last couple of games Danny Mwanga has been a recent substitution for PTFC when they reasserted a conversion from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2; and his play was deeper on the left, the first time, and deeper on the right the second time. On both occasions he seemed to settle in pretty well in his role as a hybrid midfielder.

  4. We have also seen the tactical move by PTFC to pull Kosuke Kimura and rotate Sal Zizzo into the fullback position to give him a wee bit more freedom down the wings to take advantage of his pace and his improving influence on the attack; this was a positive, tactical move, by PTFC in a game when they were behind.

  5. We didn’t see that this game; instead we saw Mike Fucito come on and play alongside Bright Dike; therefore minimizing the ‘free-reign’ of Franck Songo’o while also taking a major penetrating threat out of the game; it clogs the lanes for Franck because it pulls the center-backs more into the center; with one striker it tends to free up more space for Franck to play behind and rotate around.

  6. I suppose much of this may not read well but at the end of the day I’m struggling to follow the thinking behind this move other than to give Mike more minutes. I like Mike and what he brings; a wicked strike and lots of energy up front but for me what was missing was the transition between the back and the front and that substitution, in my view, didn’t address that issue – it exacerbated it; perhaps others have a different view?

  7. Was there a greater tactical advantage in bringing on Danny Mwanga for Sal or perhaps again moving to replace Lovel Palmer and bring Danny on to play deeper in the midfield to allow Sal the freedom for more runs? In answer to that here are some thoughts:
    a. Danny is bigger than Mike,
    b. Danny has more experience in playing deeper than Mike,
    c. PTFC was already two goals down so increasing the opportunity to get a goal, with a smaller downside on the defensive side had merit,
    d. Danny’s skills better offset the skills of Bright so it’s not having two forwards with the same skills but having two forwards with different skills,
    e. 45 minutes is a long time and plenty of time to get two goals back and if successful there were still two solid fullbacks on the bench to replace Sal if the ‘defensive’ need arose.

  8. So in wrapping this one up I would offer that the replacement of Sal Zizzo for Mike Fucito was oddity #6. Yes, there is goodness in giving Mike some playing time against his old club but did it really outweigh another (previously used) tactical move that have proved to be successful in scratching a goal back?

In closing; a few additional things:

  1. There remain two games to play in this season; one away for the Cascadia Cup and one at home. My WTWF with the Vancouver game will be the starting line-up, the formation played and how it translates to leveraging more influential players more, and what tactical substitutions occur through the course of the game.

  2. For the future, I will be providing an update to my “LOGJAM in the Midfield” series over the course of the next few months; within that I will offer up a contrast on what I have seen after the season has finished versus what I saw (in July). It will also include my thoughts and feelings about who has the best capacity and capability to succeed under the new leadership of Caleb Porter. Although dated here is what I offered in Part II of my LOGJAM in the Midfield back on July 3rd.…

  3. A question: If Wayne Rooney (26), a noted striker with Manchester United and England, can convert to being a midfielder for Manchester United, in order to continue his career and help his team get better, are there any current traditional strikers on PTFC who might be able to do the same thing? Rooney makes a bucket full of money and has sacrificed his ego as a striker to help make his team better; that is a great example of leadership… others may see value and benefit to this approach.

  4. Finally, last week I heard Eric Wynalda discuss his prognostication about the chances of seeing New York Red Bulls play LA Galaxy in the final based upon his thoughts about the latest salaries of their top players… with that I thought some of you may be interested in reading this two part blog I put together back in early August:… Note: If you have read through this before it has not been updated; if you haven’t then you may find it interesting; especially after hearing that blurb from Eric Wynalda.

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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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