PTFC vs FC Dallas – Timbers Player Ratings and more on Professional Referees Organization (PRO)

PTFC (nil) Vs FC Dallas (1) – Pre-Season JELD-WEN Field

Baptism by fire is a phrase that comes to mind when considering the starting 11 against FC Dallas the other night. Here are a few observations about the chemistry  and the diversity of the starting 11:

1. Some players have had extensive time playing together.
2. Some players have had absolutely no time playing together.
3. Some players have extensive professional backgrounds.
4. Some players have almost no background as a professional.
5. Some players should have a very good working knowledge now about Caleb Porters system / style of play.
6. Some players probably have little working knowledge about Caleb Porters system / style of play.
7. Some players have never played in JELD-WEN before.
8. Some players have played in JELD-WEN for years.
9. Some players had multiple combinations of the above.

With that much diversity it’s no wonder the first half was so disjointed.

With that said I’m taking a completely different approach in offering some thoughts for your consideration. I did not abandon Possession with Purpose in this game; on the contrary I did track penetrations into the attacking 1/3rd, creation of goal scoring opportunities, shots taken, etc.

For those interested FC Dallas had an overwhelming lead in penetrations, GSO’s, and of course they scored the only goal. The possession time battle was also won by FC Dallas – not by much actually – I tracked FCD with 47 minutes of possession and PTFC with 43 minutes of possession.

But back to the approach for today…

In the past I have never offered up “individual” grades for players resulting from game day performance. The reason why I steer away from individual grades on players is multi-fold. In my view there are only four categories of import relative to an “individual” game day performance…

1. Forwards and their productivity in the singular activity of converting a goal scoring opportunity into a goal; goals scored versus shots taken ratio.
2. Goal Keepers and their saves percentage in blocking shots from a forward; goals saved versus shots on goal ratio.
3. Players who get red cards for inappropriate behavior / play anywhere.
4. Players who get yellow cards within 25-35 yards of the 6 yard box.

For me, in all other cases, the activities that occur between and around the boxes is ‘team play’; therefore the strengths and weaknesses of teammates have just as much to do with an individual game day performance as the player themselves.

Before getting into the individual player grades I’d like to offer up my approach and subjective weight for the scores.  With this done now I will not need to present it in the future.

Teamwork – Primary role and responsibility of the Player (30%):

1. All positions on the pitch have some primary roles that include the intent for players to work with each other in creating or preventing goal scoring opportunities; the more created on the attacking side the better – the fewer the opponent creates the better.

2. In other words if there are large numbers of penetrations and GSO’s created down one wing or another the midfielders accountable for defending those areas are just as accountable for that weakness as the fullback.

3. Likewise, if there are stronger numbers of GSO’s created down the left wing as opposed to the right wing in attack then the left forward, left central midfielder and left fullback will have combined scores that probably exceed those of the players on the right barring some specific individual performance that outweighs that combined team productivity.

Leadership (30%):

1. This subjective analysis comes in many different levels; a team Captain has leadership roles but all the players on the pitch have leadership roles. Following is just as critical as leading; great leaders are also great followers.

2. Game conditions change and not everyone (to include the Captain) can see a change in game conditions at the same time so if a ‘follower’ sees a change in game conditions a great leader will recognize that and make adjustments as appropriate.

Red Cards (15%):

1. For me there is no excuse for a red card; reckless play is not good; there will be times when the judgment of a referee on whether or not some activity warrants a red card versus yellow card. While I might disagree with that judgment call it doesn’t matter. If a player gets a red card there is every likelihood that the player will receive a D or F.

Yellow Cards (10%):

1. Yellow cards are not as severe as red cards but they can be given the location in which a foul occurs. The worst location is obviously the 18 yard box but teams can score goals on set-pieces from as far out as 35 yards. So any yellow card issued within 35 yards of the defending goal is not good.

2. There are occasions where some yellow cards might be issued for ‘dissent’ or some other stupid action like kicking a ball out of play to delay a game, or giving some verbal to an opponent that the referee hears. Those yellows aren’t good either but if occurring outside the 35 yard area of the defending third I won’t judge them as harshly against the individual.

Goals Scored (15%) “or” Goals Saved (15%):

1. Players on the pitch have opportunities to score goals while goalkeepers usually don’t so this one can be a split category. Yes, goals win games but players usually don’t score goals without having a strong amount of teamwork involved in creating that goal scoring opportunity.

2. The same can be said for Goal keepers; the most critical goals saved are those that come from shots taken outside the 18 yard box; scrambles inside the 6 yard box and around the 18 yard box are harder to save given less reaction time. So the further out that an opponent scores the less effective the keeper is in doing their job.

3. Those scrambles in and around the 6 yard box and some shots coming from within the 18 yard box are just as much the fault of the defenders as the goal keeper; others may have a different view but marking up or down with goals against will also come into play with Teamwork and not necessarily be a individual statistic just for keepers.

With that said grades are offered from A to F.  A great example of an A would be the game Ryan Johnson just had against San Jose. Hat Tricks are rare (very rare) and his goals scored came from using three different striking skills; an almost toe-poke, an almost chip and a flick-on with his head. All goals scored also came from different directions and on each occasion he was in the right place relative to the defender.

Unfortunately a great example of an F (and I don’t expect to issue those very often) is the game Kosuke Kimura had against San Jose last year. Not only was Kosuke repeatedly beaten in the air and on the ground down the right but he was also caught flat-footed in the first 5 minutes of the game on a switch pass down his wing.

In case you missed it Kimura made a significant school boy error when that switch came in from their right midfielder down our right wing. Kosuke had is feet square to his shoulders (back to the goal) as opposed to having them ‘front to back’. When that switch came in he lost at least two steps against the player he was defending against because he had to take extra steps to turn and chase as opposed to just pivot and chase.

The resultant was the attacker had at least two steps clear on goal and if not for a great save on the near post PTFC would have given up a goal in the first 5 minutes of the game. I don’t expect to observe many school-boy errors in a game with professionals but when I do the grade will reflect it in some fashion.

So here are the players and my grades that include a few bits and pieces of info for your consideration to go with:

Sal Zizzo:

1. I didn’t see Sal out of position at any time where risk might have exceeded reward. Solid and in my view and one of the few players who functioned appropriately in the very disjointed first half.

2. From a statistical standpoint FC Dallas penetrated down our left defensive wing more than our right. In terms of attack (the few penetrations that did occur) PTFC worked their PA3 down our right wing more than our left wing. It is not clear if that was due specifically to Sal but in general our PWP was more effective in attack down our right wing and more effective in defense down our right wing; that’s not solely down to Sal but he has direct influence in that success or failure.

3. What may have been difficult for Sal was how he linked up with Calum Angus, Rodney Wallace, Ben Zemanski, Danny Mwanga and Jose Valencia (those that played near him).

4. Part of the success that Caleb Porter offered about the play of Jose Valencia (may?) have had something to do with the overall threat that Sal provided by linking with him as the ball pushed forward. While the first half was pretty weak when it came to PWP the second half was better; Grade: B

Calum Angus:

1. Very hard to grade a player when only seeing him perform in game conditions once; compounding this was that his center-back partner has also not seen much playing time this pre-season and they have never paired up as a partnership.

2. Others may have a different take but what stood out to me the most was the overall tendency of Calum to stay high while also looking to steer/drive the others to play higher and tighter in defense.

3. In watching AIK (a Swedish club) – (Calum played in Sweden) – they also play pretty high as a back-four in defense. So the communication and ‘where to draw the line’ may have been an issue that comes from a difference in style of play between some Swedish clubs and what direction Caleb Porter is working towards; others may know better.

4. From a technical standpoint he seemed to ensure he had the man he marked in his eyesight for the better part of the first half. Why and what led to Angus and Danso playing so far apart on goal kicks is unclear to me; I don’t recall (maybe I have missed that in earlier games?) seeing our other center-back partnerships playing that far apart on goal kicks.

5. Perhaps that had to do with playing against two center forwards? Perhaps that had to do with having Gleeson in goal? However viewed with those two center-backs pulled wider and Wallace dropping back to create a flat back three there was opportunity for Gleeson to play short balls from the box when ‘building from the back’.

6. Best intentions aside it was a rare occasion indeed for Gleeson to play any short balls out of the back; in almost every instance where he had a goal kick he lofted the ball up pitch. Hence getting a better idea on how Calum handled that short ball passing game didn’t present itself.

7. Given that lack of evidence I can’t hold that against Calum.  On the other hand when I did see Cooper filter to his side of the pitch I don’t recall many dangerous occasions that generated a GSO or shot taken.

8. I also noticed that Calum was man-marking Cooper on set-pieces; I did not see any occasions where Cooper played an attacking role with the delivery of those set-pieces.

9. For me the final grade for Calum was a C.

Footy Danso:

1. Footy has been with Portland from a number of years and if anyone should be comfortable in the JELD-WEN setting and influence the TA bring to the game it should be Footy.

2. Footy has worked and trained with all the other players in learning to ‘build from the back’ as Caleb Porter ascribes. Danso should be comfortable on the ball given his time playing this game and he should be pretty good at reading the situation to determine whether or not a rare penetration into the attacking half is warranted at a given time.

3. Footy did not look comfortable on the ball when building from the back but he did look comfortable with penetrating the attacking half, as warranted, to test the FC Dallas midfield.

4. That said perhaps it is his foot speed or lack of having a working relationship/partnership with Calum Angus that led to what I believe were numerous instances where the back four were simply not tight and not aligned in the first half.

5. On at least one occasion I did see Angus waving his arm forward when looking at Footy; whether or not that was an attempt to have Footy follow standard PTFC back-four approaches or it was Angus referring to old continental European habits of playing high in the back I’m not sure; others may know better on that.

6. For me one thing was clear – Angus was attempting to communicate to Footy with his arm waving to push Footy forward – there was no corresponding adjustment by Footy.

7. As the veteran of the back-four I would have expected Footy to be the player communicating (hand waving) to Calum on what adjustments he should be making and not the other way around. To me the idea that Calum, who has little to no time training with this team, was waving at Footy to provide direction was unsettling.

8. Bottom line here for me is that Footy is the veteran on this team and he should have been leading the back four, not Angus.

9. For me the final grade for Danso was a D.

Ryan Kawulok:

1. Ryan doesn’t bring the same skill set to the pitch that Sal brings; I’ve not seen devastating pace and the flexibility on being able to penetrate laterally atop the 18 yard box. That said Ryan appeared to stay high and tight where appropriate while also having the greatest amount of foot and ball traffic this game (defending wise).

2. FC Dallas made more attempts to penetrate down the left wing as opposed to the right wing. If memory serves all the corners taken by Dallas were on the left side. With all that traffic Dallas also created more GSO’s down the left than the right. With only yielding one goal this game it does speak to having some good presence in the defending third as much as some good presence from midfielders tracking back to support.

3. With those things said I didn’t see anything special from Ryan that might stand out and warrant a ‘strong game’ where his influence in building from the back was present. This was another opportunity for Ryan to put his stamp on being a fullback who also knows there is need to help generate ball movement in the midfield when pressing higher up the pitch.

4. For me the final grade for Kawulok was a C.

Dylan Tucker-Gangnes:

1. I sense that Dylan is still getting his footing with the pace and strength of MLS being at a higher level than college.

2. In this game I didn’t see anything remarkable one way or another and I also didn’t notice much of a change in building from the back with Gangnes versus Angus.

3. More time on the pitch will suit Dylan and increase his confidence. When he does take the opportunity to push the ball forward into the attacking third (back-four long ball) he does take time to get his head up and look for gaps before just hoofing it up the pitch.

4. In recalling efforts from Footy Danso this game I seem to recall Gangnes inferring greater vision when looking to move the ball into the attacking third. However viewed FC Dallas did not score in the second half and that was a good thing; the combination of Gangnes and Danso did well in that respect.

5. Others might like to add some more observations here but for me the final grade for Gangnes was a C.

Rodney Wallace:

1. Rodney had the added responsibility of being the Captain on the day and additional weight in his leadership will be applied here given that role.

2. As the central holding midfielder and Captain the run of play on both sides of the ball was his main job. While Rodney would drop back to offer himself up to build from the back Gleeson pretty much ignored him. However viewed as the Captain as well as a key player in building from the back Wallace should have ‘inflicted his will’ as the leader of this team to direct Gleeson to stop hoofing forward as many long balls as he did.

3. If the direction from Porter was to hoof it long then why would the two center-backs split so wide as Wallace dropped deep to collect the ball?

4. In my view the failure of building from the back was down to Gleeson as much as Wallace as the leadership of Wallace; provided direction from the bench was to push it forward (over the top) as quickly as possible?

5. With respect to possession with purpose in the first half; there wasn’t much at all. All told PTFC created only 8 GSO’s and less than half of those generated a shot taken. Poor results and my single word to define the first half was ‘disjointed’.

6. There may have been other reasons for that when considering who the other central midfielders were in the first half compared to the second half. When viewing the second half things worked better, not in building from the back but in possessing and moving the ball when it was in the midfield.

7. For me the final grade for Rodney in this role (and as Captain) was a D.

Danny Mwanga:

1. I don’t have much to offer here about Danny; from what I saw I don’t recall him having any direct influence / impact in attacking or defending. And with him having a role (I think) that was supposed to be similar to that of Diego Valeri I don’t recall him providing much of a link between the other midfielders and forwards; maybe this was down to the incessant amount of long balls coming from Gleeson; maybe it wasn’t?

2. However viewed Danny was pulled in the second half and Nanchoff moved from left forward back to the midfield.

3. In considering the objective data; as noted there were very view GSO’s in the first half and even fewer shots taken. As the proposed central attacking midfielder that lack of volume in creating GSO’s has a lot to do with him.

4. For me the final grade for Danny in this role was D.

Ben Zemanski:

1. Quite difficult given the short amount of time for Ben being in this team but he should be aware of the system that Caleb works towards.  With that here are my thoughts for your consideration.

2. With the change in team composition to begin the second half it appeared to me that Ben inflicted his influence better as Nanchoff slid in and Mwanga was replaced by Rincon.

3. I’m not yet convinced in seeing him play an active (starting) role as a central defensive midfielder in a diamond 4-4-2; my first thought is that Caleb would run the same starting 11 in either a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. More to follow there for sure.

4. That being said, on the day, his presence was noted (more in the second half) and he seemed to gel better when Nanchoff and he combined better with Wallace in the second half. Again not much in the way on building from the back but the active pressure applied to FC Dallas in defending against and winning the ball in the midfield was better as time passed.

5. For me the final grade for Ben was a C.

Jose Valencia:

1. Tough call here for a couple of reasons, not in considering him having some influence but in considering whether or not he could have played a more active role in supporting the back-four when tracking back.

2. From a skills standpoint and applying individual pressure down his wing I would offer Jose did a good job given the lack of building from the back and the disjointed approach on penetrating the attacking third.

3. I would offer it was probably very difficult for him to initially work with Frederic Piquionne (Pick-ee-own) since they have had almost no practice time together. As time passes I can see opportunity for a good relationship between those two.

4. For me the final grade for Jose was C. And yes Caleb Porter already offered up that Jose had a great individual performance;  great foot skills and a dangerous player in and around the 18 yard box.  With a different midfield Valencia may have scored…

Frederic Piquionne:

1. This was the first opportunity, like Angus, where I have been able to observe Piquionne (Piq). I liked what I saw (not necessarily in terms of end-state this game) but in terms of his presence. Porter has already indicated he likes physical presence from his forwards; Piq provided that and also has height being 6’2”.

2. In watching Piq his movement (though not ‘smoothed’ with teammates yet) reminded me a wee bit of Alan Shearer as he wound down his career. Strong, a bull to work against, comfortable with his back to goal, and not afraid to take a strike when given an inch of clear space.

3. Late on in the second half Piq posted up on a player just outside the 18, drifted back, turned, faced the goal, and took a shot to the far post. Some might have considered a better play would have been to push the ball down into the corner to create a cross into the six yard box. While that might be appropriate in some cases Piq is a striker and it’s important (I think) for his teammates to know that when given an inch of clear space Piq will shoot for the far post.

4. All told, given the amount of long balls provided into the attacking half, it would appear to me that Piq is suited more for a traditional (bucket) 4-4-2 as opposed to a diamond 4-4-2 or 4-3-3; there is goodness in that as I don’t see anyone else on this teamwho can take on that traditional #9 in a traditional 4-4-2; there is value in variation…

5. That might not garner him much playing time but having that extra tool in the kit bag to pull out as leverage, if game conditions warrant, is a good thing. I can envision seeing Piq on the pitch at some point or another and given his age I’m willing to bet that Piq is willing to be ‘good to go’ with being one of the 7 who sits the bench and awaits his opportunities when presented.

6. For me the final grade for Piq was a C.

Michael Nanchoff:

1. Most should know by now that my first instinct on Nanchoff was he had game and most importantly he had a ‘left footed game’ that wasn’t present with PTFC, to any great extent last year.

2. While his presence was missing in the first half; a result of himself as well as others given his role as a forward; it wasn’t missing in the second half. His move into the midfield helped convert a disjointed team into a better team in the 2nd half.

3. As evidence on that observation; in the first 20 minutes of the second half PTFC had generated just as many GSO’s than they had in all of the 1st half. This is not just down to Nanchoff though; Zemanski improved, Wallace improved and general ball movement and defensive pressure increase when Nanchoff replaced Mwanga in the midfield.

4. Like other midfielders the significant lack of building from the back (in my view) led to some disjointed play between the forwards and midfielders. With so many long balls it appeared that on many occasions the forwards were getting first touch and it was their responsibility to bring the midfielders into the play; when building from the back it works the other way around. And that approach allows forwards more opportunity to play the ball to their feet going forward as opposed to going back.

5. It’s not clear to me that we will see Nanchoff in a forward position anytime in the near future but others may have a different view. For me he is still young and his time this year playing in reserve matches (or part of the 18) should help him gain maturity to better leverage his unique skills with Portland. It was good to see he was signed to a contract the other day.

6. Final grade for Nanchoff was a C.

Mobi Fehr:

1. Good to see Mobi get some time; he came on late for Piq and took over for Zizzo at right fullback with Zizzo pushing forward into the midfield/forward role down the right side.

2. Not much to offer here on his game that night. No major mistakes made in the last 15 and no major attacking impacts either.

3. Final grade for Fehr was a C.

Sebastian Rincon:

1. Sebastian Rincon came on for Danny Mwanga in the second half and took over the left forward role from Nanchoff who slid into Mwanga’s midfield role.

2. This combined move had much to do with an increase in productivity and creating goal scoring opportunities on both sides of the pitch. I didn’t see any major weaknesses in Rincon’s game; nor did I see any flashes of brilliance. The telling thing for me in this move was the overall general increase in team chemistry and movement with the ball as Mwanga departed the pitch.

3. I like Rincon’s pace and very good ball handling skills; I’d like to offer more here but can’t – others may have more thoughts to offer?

4. Final grade for Rincon was a C.

Jake Gleeson:

1. As indicated in a number of observations for other players above I submit that there was a far greater amount of long balls being played from Gleeson than I have seen in recent games. I’m not a fan of long balls unless game conditions warrant (down 2 – nil with 15-20 minutes to go) ignoring the movement of the ball out of the back.

2. It appeared to me that PTFC made specific tactical adjustments given FC Dallas ran a 4-4-2; center-backs were pulled very wide and Wallace dropped back to receive short balls from the goal keeper.

3. I’m not sure if the propensity for long balls was part of the game design or not; if it was then PTFC executed the long ball game brilliantly (with respect to doing them). When considering the lack of possession in the midfield and the disjointed approach to possession overall I’d offer that long balls happened a lot and winning the possession of them didn’t.

4. FC Dallas scored one goal; a strike by Perez on a deflected ball into the box; those are hard to save so no knocks there on his keeping of the box.

5. Final grade for Gleeson was a D; my reason for this grade has to do with the overwhelming number of long balls being played from the back where a more deliberate approach was available.  It also appeared to me that the Captain of the team called for the ball to be played short (somewhere) and it wasn’t.  If the long ball approach was a ‘tactic of the day’ fair dues… then my final grade would be C.

In closing…

Three diagrams today; PTFC Penetration percentages, FC Dallas penetration percentages and the overall PWP Chart on data points tracked this game.

Timbers penetration into FC Dallas Defending 1/3rd

Timbers penetration into FC Dallas Defending 1/3rd

Note:  The side of the penetration is with respect to where PTFC attacked.

FC Dallas penetration against Timbers

FC Dallas penetration into PTFC Defending 1/3rd

Note:  As indicated on the chart FC DAllas penetrated a wee bit more down our left wing as opposed to right wing.  Both team were pretty poor when looking at variation across all three areas but Dallas was very balanced in working towards both our left as well as our right.

Finally, the overall graphic representation of the key data points collected in this game.

Portland Timbers PWP vs FC Dallas

Portland Timbers PWP vs FC Dallas

My intent on using red for the most recent bar is to ensure a ‘poor performance’ is left on this chart as the regular season unfolds.  Yes there were many extenuating circumstances relative to the starting 11 and substitutes used in this game but it may provide an indicator to work from in the future.

Professional Referee’s Organization (PRO) has announced that the number of full time professional referee’s in MLS this year will increase from 3 to 9 and that all but one referee will be at least considered a registered part timeor full time professional.

There is goodness in this as MLS matures, not only for the players and teams for refereeing games but also for the organization as a whole when looking to increase credibility with other professional leagues and FIFA.

In case you missed it here are the latest assignments on referee’s from PRO:

While I can’t confirm at this time who the 6 newly appointed full time referee’s are; early indications seem/appear to point towards most full time refs covering most nationally televised games; another strong indicator that PRO is working to ‘get it right’ in support of MLS.

I can also offer that there are assessments going on at this time with respect to referee’s and assistant referees; the pre-season for players is just as critical as the pre-season for referees.

Sal Zizzo as a right fullback:

1. For me this was a good thing. I liked him taking on this role last year and fully support and continue to like seeing him in this role this year. In my recollection of the game our right back position and Sal’s play supported the attacking approach (when leveraged) and he certainly held his own against Dallas in defense.

2. Sal already knows our MLS opponents; he has great pace / endurance and what I would consider to be stronger ball possession play than Ryan Miller.

3. He also has strong skills in delivering quality crosses from up high or even down low. When looking to penetrate deep into the corner Sal has shown he can deliver low, accurate crosses to the near post; others may disagree but I have yet to see Ryan Miller do this with the same effect as Sal.

4. In addition, with his pace and direct turning ability Sal also provides a major threat in overlapping – not deep – but in turning and penetrating the 18 yard box to open up more space for Alhassan and others.

From what I understand a first 11 will be starting again tomorrow – what formation Caleb Porter runs is not clear. AIK have been playing quite high in the back-four and this approach sometimes clogs the midfield with more players.

When AIK played FC Dallas the game appeared like kick-ball; in some cases the PTFC game appeared a bit like kick-ball; but that might have been due to the chemistry of the players and their lack of playing time together as opposed to what FC Dallas did in defense.

It will be interesting to see how the flow of the game is dictated and who dictates it.

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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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