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What To Watch For (Timbers vs White Caps)

As mentioned in my last blog my WTWF for this game will be:
1. The line-up
2. The formation
3. The substitutions

With that said I’m not normally someone who likes to offer up starting line-ups given there are many unknown-unknowns in soccer and in the club house.

Nevertheless; with about 5 days to go I figured I’d offer up this line-up and formation for you to consider (bend, fold, spindle, mutilate, or agree) as PTFC heads up north for their match against Vancouver.

As a caveat – my expectation as a fan going in is: Play the best 11 possible in their best (balanced) positions possible; this, in my view, is not a game to spend time learning about the players for next year other than to assess how the best 11 played under great pressure, away from home.

If healthy; here’s my 11 in what I consider to be a balanced formation… some (many?) will disagree with this? For me it represents a good defensive formation that has opportunities for the break… and good potential to control the midfield…

The Christmas Tree formation (4-3-2-1)

Back (4) – Kimura, Mosquera, Horst, Smith

Midfield (3) Zizzo, Jewsbury, Chara

Midfield (2) Nagbe, Songo’o

Forward (1) Dike

Goalie – Donovan Ricketts

Key Sub – Kalif Alhassan (Midfield)
Key Sub – Danny Mwanga (Forward)
Key Sub – Wallace (Midfield)
Other Subs – Palmer, Bendik, Brunner, Alexander

At half time… or the 60 minute mark
If we have the lead pull Dike and bring on Wallace (direct swap with Wallace playing above Kimura) and go with a 4-4-2 with Franck and Darlington up front (deep forward roles) to close midfield passing lanes… (almost like a 4-6-0).

It we are behind bring on KAH for Kimura and slot Zizzo into the right fullback slot.

If we are tied pull Dike and replace with Mwanga (direct swap) and retain shape.

Some additional reasons why I offer these players in these positions:

  1. Darlington, in what I have seen this year, is a far better rover who blocks passing lanes and has vision and can rotate on and off players to make and use space as he passes; that combination works well with Songo’o – who likes the direct approach to create and use space atop the 18 as he dribbles (a counter balance of passing and dribbling from two highly skilled and effective players).

  2. Dike is a monster up front and in this formation he really only has two responsibilities – play holder with his back to the goal in the center atop the 18 and then play lateral runner on crosses. A simplified balance between holder and poacher… minimal dribbling…

  3. With Chara on the left (White Caps right) this supports some well-timed overlapping penetrations by Smith (who is better at this than Kimura) while also affording PTFC a defending midfielder in our most often penetrated side. A good counterbalance of strength and weakness…

  4. Kimura and Zizzo both have great pace and where they lack some finishing touches they can make up for that by getting behind the ball to close down space (delay) while also allowing Zizzo a threat to penetrate deep right and cross into the Vancouver left… a counter balance so to speak — give up space to make space…

  5. Center-backs; like it or not, in my view, the two center-backs with the most experience playing together are Mosquera and Horst. So if both maintain communication they should handle what comes their way pretty well. Horst remains the beast with some forward penetration while Mosquera tends to cheat back a bit… another good balance.

  6. Jewsbury appears to have reborn himself playing central defending midfielder (with vision) and this affords many opportunities to swing penetration left or right (balance) and minimize attacking penetration atop the 18. Jack has also been crucial on in-swinging corners and taking steps to control the central midfield as a safety valve to keep possession and passing going.

Of course there are any number of combinations that are good and I would be anxious to hear other views and why you have those views.

Here are some questions I worked through to further consider who might work where:

  1. What balance is wanted and where?

  2. Who seems to have better non-verbal communication with whom at certain times and in certain places?

  3. Is the center forward the one you want to strike the ball atop the 18 or is it someone else?

  4. Who is the best as a heading target; and can that player inflict physical presence that will open up the pitch for others?

  5. In-swinging corners are the most difficult to defend; who adds to the flexibility in having balance on both the left and right?

  6. When taking corners who has good speed to defend against an immediate counter-attack?

  7. Who, in the midfield, is visionary enough to rotate back if there is a gap with a quick change in ball possession?

  8. Do you go into the game going for three points in order to win the Cascadia Cup?

  9. If so, where on the pitch do you want your most influential players to be who can score goals?

As stated above; in my view, this is not a game to spend time learning about the players for next year other than to assess how the best 11 played under great pressure, away from home, to try and win the Cascadia Cup for the Fans.

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.