Timbers take the Cup! (Timbers 1 White Caps nil) & More

So… with relief the Timbers finally win one on the road and also bring home the Cascadia Cup!

Please forgive me for taking a few extra hours/days to put this together. I have a some things to offer for your consideration but first want to congratulate the players for getting some silverware this season. In considering all the pressure to win on the road as well as not let the Cascadia Cup slip through their fingers the Timbers did extremely well this past weekend.

And yes, I expect you will need that traditional cup/pint of your favorite bevvy and a biscuit as you settle in for the read.

And as referenced in post-match quotes/discussions this win really boils down to the players playing for the fans (especially those loyal 1,000 who traveled to Vancouver!)

To reinforce that, many of you may have already read this quote but I offer that it is worth repeating. Here’s what Capt. Jack Jewsbury had to say after the match on finally getting a road win.

“There were multiple reasons we wanted to come in here and get the win tonight, we didn’t want to go down in history as one of the teams in MLS that hadn’t gotten a road win all year so we accomplished that. But first and foremost we wanted to win the Cascadia Cup – that means a lot not only for us but for our fans and the organization and to get that here in front of our fans that travelled to watch the game means a lot.”

For this weekend I imagine the atmosphere at JELD-WEN, as PTFC take on San Jose, will be awesome! And with Gavin Wilkinson already dropping hints about how the questionable behavior of a certain player for San Jose is, there will be no pity if that ‘certain player’ doesn’t break the MLS goal scoring record.

So in conclusion, before digging into my match analysis, again my congratulations to every player and coach in the PTFC organization for sticking through and working to get the away win while also working to get that piece of Silverware.

Now for some thoughts and analysis to consider as the season winds down and San Jose makes their appearance at JELD-WEN.

Starting with my WTWF with this game; 1) The formation, 2) The lineup, and 3) The substitutions. With everything to play for the tenor of this game started with the formation and lineup.

WTWF #1 = The formation: In the past on away games we have usually seen Wilkinson have the team trot out in a 4-3-3 and then eventually work to a 4-4-2 when things go pear-shaped. While many might have differing views on this the balance and positional play of some players better suits other formations. So when seeing PTFC trot out in a 4-4-1-1 it appeared to me that PTFC made changes to better suit their overall balance while also taking steps to ensure the midfield retained ‘numbers’. This leads me to the lineup.
WTWF #2 = The lineup: With starting off in the 4-4-1-1 there is a need to have the ‘first (1)’ be aggressive in attack while also lending a hand in getting behind the ball in defense without being relied upon to make critical tackles near the defending 18 with the exception of defending set pieces.

Someone of this type also needs to have great vision and an ability to look to penetrate with the dribble as well as feed off and create space with others. Picking Franck Songo’o to take on this much awaited central attacking role has been long in coming. And his assist in the 38th minute was not a surprise.

As for the rest of the lineup; as predicted the 11 offered up were the 11 selected; I won’t go so far as to say that is the ‘best 11’ forever, but for this game, at this time, it was reasonable. As for who else could have started the best way to tell that is by who came on as a substitute.

WTWF #3 = The substitutions: We saw Eric Brunner, Rodney Wallace and Danny Mwanga come on as substitutions this game. Although I was probably pretty brutal in my assessment of who subbed in the Seattle Sounders game I was not disappointed this go-round.

Eric came on and did a solid job of replacing Hanyer; and if not for Eric’s surgery this week I could have seen him paring with David Horst against San Jose.

Also brought on was Rodney Wallace; while I was surprised to see him replace Franck Songo’o I wasn’t surprised to see him come on as noted in my WTWF last week. I saw Rodney as a key defensive sub but not for Franck – I had him coming on for Bright. However sliced I find nothing negative or brutal to offer with that substitution.

I would offer however that the last time Franck was pulled and a goal was needed the offense stalled; so it was somewhat surprising to see Franck come off at the 65 minute mark; perhaps he is nursing soreness or was just getting tired and this was more about fitness than tactics. Darlington did role into Franck’s slot so there wasn’t a formation change to go with that move. More on why Franck may have got tired more quickly later in this post…

Late in the 85th minute Danny Mwanga came on for Bright Dike; again nothing brutal or negative to offer here; as noted I opined that this substitution was a reasonable consideration given the score-line and a need to potentially score a goal with Bright getting tired. More on why Bright may have got more tired more quickly later in this post…

So all told; one substitution to replace an injured Hanyer and two tactical substitutions that were strong and could be considered reasonable given the score-line and tactical situation of the game.

Now on to some other thoughts for your consideration:
1. PTFC forward play; for perhaps the first time, in a long time, both players playing up top had extensive touches on the ball. Here is the MLS Chalkboard link showing the distribution, shots and possession pattern for Bright Dike, Franck Songo’o and when Danny came on as a sub. In counting the overall touches for those three it totaled 135; Franck (60), Bright (68) and Danny (7).


  1. If you recall the last game we played against Seattle here is how Dike and Fucito combined touches (70) looked as the forwards:


  1. Now I am not advocating that every game where we see greater touches means a positive result in the score-line but it is worth noting (considering the other links I provided in my last match analysis) that there is certainly a trend where the more touches we see in the attacking third by our forwards the more opportunities we create and the more likely we are to score.

  2. If that is not enough to warrant your additional consideration here’s some reminders about what Montero and Johnson looked like for Seattle (152 touches):


  1. Now here’s what it looked like for Vancouver this weekend (119 touches for Mattocks, Miller and Sanvezzo):


  1. Interesting in this one is how much the pattern of movement shows the Vancouver intent to penetrate down Kimura’s side; this goes against the normal trend of most teams battling against PTFC and might also explain their lack of significant threats. Only when you add Robson to the mix do you see significant penetration down their right (PTFC left).

  2. If I were blogging for the White Caps I would offer that their tactical strategy on where to penetrate did not go towards the weakness other teams have observed about PTFC. But perhaps the placement and penetration had more to do with what side Chara played on as well. For most of the game he appeared to play on the PTFC left so perhaps their strategy was to work away from Chara?

  3. I don’t know but however you slice it PTFC definitely had their forwards much more engaged ‘physically’ in this game and I would submit that was a major contributor to the result. And when considering the tactical substitutions by GW in the second half it seems reasonable that both Franck and Bright may have been pulled more as a result of sustaining a high fitness level as opposed to making a tactical decision that would offer more opportunities to score a goal if Vancouver had equalized.

  4. A bit risky perhaps but it paid off and PTFC got the result. Always hard to make decisions like that so a way to mitigate that was to bring on Danny to perhaps get a late second goal on the break to further bury Vancouver?

Here’s an interesting run-down on the goal that was scored by PTFC; I don’t normally like to do this but when considering Caleb Porter is arriving in December and his reputation for playing tika-taka I thought I would offer this up as a great example of PTFC “timba-taka”… Here’s how those 36 seconds played out.

  1. Smith intercepted a through ball, controlled it and passed it to
  2. Horst, who in turn controlled it and passed it to
  3. Chara, who in turn controlled it and with time passed it to
  4. Kimura, who in turn controlled it and with vision passed it deep right to
  5. Dike, who again controlled it, dribbled it with hardly any pressure and released a pass to
  6. Chara, who again took control (with no pressure) and passed to his left to
  7. Jewsbury, who again controlled it, considered his options and passed it to
  8. Nagbe, who again, with little pressure viewed his options and released it to his left to
  9. Smith, who, as usual, got his head up. viewed the options and with hardly any pressure passed it to
  10. Songo’o who was at the top corner of the 18 (where he should be) who “chested” it down, with control, and dropped it back on a bloody tea-platter for
  11. Jewsbury to slam it home on the half-volley.

Wicked play, under no stress, with great ball control and movement. Ball movement and control began on the left, rotated right, then deep right then across the pitch to the left. 11 touches in all and perhaps the longest, uninterrupted string of passes leading to a goal for the Timbers? For me this was bloody brilliant and a shining example of Timba-Taka.

In case you missed it there was a trend somewhere in there, and it wasn’t about the Timbers play this time – it was about the White Caps play. Under no circumstances during that span of time (38:07 to 38:43) did a White Caps player ever make an attempt to close down; or even attempt a tackle. The only contact any PTFC player had with a White Caps player was when Songo’o got the ball in a traditional #9 position (back to the goal and man-marked).

So in considering previous thoughts I have offered about a weakness in PTFC’s ability to close down and tackle to win the ball it seems pretty obvious to me that the White Caps provided not only a great video example for PTFC to study on passing and control that leads to a goal but also an example of how not to defend in your defending third!

To further make my point; there were at least two occasions (Chara and Dike) where a PTFC player controlled the ball, with no real pressure for as much as five seconds. If the tables had been turned and this had occurred with PTFC in defense there is no question I would be blogging about their lack of pressure.

Some other observations before closing:

  1. AGAIN, David Horst, played big (a beast as I have called him many times before!) in defense; others may have a different view but since he was brought into the side as a regular player he has become THE mainstay and driving force behind, within and in front of the back-four. A team, any team, cannot survive without strength from their center-backs. Yes, on occasion, he has made some mistakes, but they are few and far between now, never repeat mistakes and sometimes mistakes made as a result of him having to move out of his normal area ‘in the 18 yard box’. I would offer that he is ‘hands-down’ the Player of the Year for PTFC.

  2. Franck Songo’o – much has been said about Franck in many different areas but when balancing out how he played (not often) for John Spencer, versus how he has flourished in the developing ‘timba-taka’ I would offer that the ‘hands-down’ Most Improved Player of the Year is Franck Songo’o.

  3. Darlington Nagbe, the dilemma of more aggression. Some questions to consider…

    a. If someone in business is strong in one area and weak in another does a team leader really want that person to risk losing their strengths by spending more time shoring up their weaknesses?

    b. Or does that team leader consider balance from within the team as a whole and look to have others provide strength where others have a weakness?

    c. Is it more reasonable to expect that the team leader would want that employee to continue to get stronger in their strengths knowing that increased awareness of their weakness should help mitigate it?

    d. Perhaps put another way; if you are a team leader and you have someone who is absolutely brilliant at putting together power point presentations in very quick fashion (at lower cost); do you really want to spend resources to have someone else do that who takes tons of time longer, who may improve, but simply will never be as strong as that power point specialist?

    e. And if that someone who is really superb at that skill, and leaves, would you expect someone who doesn’t have those innate traits to fill that person’s shoes or would you go out and ‘head-hunt’ someone who had those skills?

    f. Balance is critical in a squad of 18; is it reasonable to expect that a team would want every single player to be more selfish? Who takes on the passing role and strength of vision if all the players are more selfish?

    g. If Caleb Porter brings in more visionary players than I can see strength in Darlington becoming more selfish, but from his team role, at this time, I would offer that a change in pitch behavior is unwarranted. Perhaps others have some thoughts to add that may help convince me otherwise?

    h. For now the balance he provides working alongside Franck Songo’o creates more danger for the defense than if both Franck and Darlington play the same way; others will no doubt disagree and consider this a very polarizing opinion.

  4. With the progression towards the off-season approaching Caleb Porter has a number of things to consider.

    a. Who stays and who goes as a matter of choice versus who stays or may go as a matter of trading to mitigate weaknesses or improve strengths (maintain and sustain balance). I would offer that Caleb Porter may already have a list of players he’s looking to acquire.

    b. Will some players go on loan during the off-season; one request has already come in and that may depend on fitness. Perhaps others may come in as well. However those loans go, the player, if they do go overseas, will have to have their mandatory rest time before playing again.

    c. Players moving up from the Academy might also be a consideration. If you read my previous blog on the Timbers Academy there are five players with the U-18’s who have dressed for the Reserves; three of them have played. There are also players who are attending college this year who are part of the Timbers organization; might one or two of them rate worthy for consideration in being added to the squad? Hard to say but if you would like more info on the U-16’s/18’s check out my blog from earlier this week. http://www.columbian.com/weblogs/port…

In closing PTFC take on San Jose (televised nationally) and I am sure the players will be eager to close out the season on a high-note.

With both Brunner and Danso out and Hanyer still injured perhaps we see AJ Baptiste alongside Horst this game. However things play out the atmosphere at kick-off should be charged with excitement when the Cup gets raised for the fans; at least I hope it gets raised!

Hopefully we see Franck Songo’o in a central role again with Darlington not far away. How PTFC handles Wondolowski, Lenhart and Gordon is difficult to say; I would imagine San Jose will look to penetrate both wings given their attacking style. Perhaps we see a 4-3-3, 4-4-2, or even the formation used against Vancouver; a 4-4-1-1?

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.

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