This was just a flat out, superb, closing game to the pre-season for Portland Timbers this year.
For the nay-sayers, yes it was pre-season but the total domination by Portland (especially in the second half) laid bare the capability of this team when it can fire on all cylinders with ball possession and control.
If you recall I have looked to establish league averages from last year as well as what I consider to be stretch targets as the regular season unfolds. I’m not convinced they aren’t stretch targets yet but the display put on by Portland the other night really raked those stretch targets over the coals.
In getting to the point here’s the overall graphic display on my key PWP indicators:
You’ll see that I have added PA3 (Penetrating the attacking 1/3rd) to this diagram; for all regular season games these numbers will also be included.
Here’s the juice for you to squeeze out of this luscious piece of fruit.
1. Time of possession for PTFC this game was 51 minutes out of 93 (54% – a best for PTFC this pre-season)
2. PTFC penetrated the AIK defending third 63 times – when plotting my stretch target for this year I was considering 50 to be a good number; I’m not so sure now but will start with that as the regular season kicks off.
3. PTFC created 43 GSO’s this game that nearly doubles the previous high against Seattle (23).
4. PTFC had 25 shots taken this game; like GSO’s that nearly doubles the previous high while also slapping the ‘stretch target’ of 20 right in the face.
5. In looking at shots on goal; again PTFC exceeded what I considered to be a very reasonable ‘stretch target’ of 10.
6. With that much fire power and superb teamwork the finishing touches were left to the strikers and like any team this is where individual capability has its most influence. I won’t poo-poo the strikes on goal this game; from what I saw all were of good quality. Specific thoughts relative to individual performances will be offered up in my Player Grading article later this week.
So with those PWP indicators offered up here’s the distribution matrix on where both teams looked to penetrate each other’s attacking third.
Not quite the same distribution, in terms of balance, we have seen before. But, there may be compelling reasons why this percentage changed a wee bit.
In the first half PTFC was almost dead even across the board in PA3; as the second half unfolded the amount of PA3 changed dramatically with the right side being the favorite side almost 2 to 1. With that change in focus there may have been a tactical decision made by the Coaching staff that drove an increase in one area or another. Likewise there may have been an approach by AIK to deliberately try and steer PTFC down the right side.
Without being in the locker room something like that is difficult to determine. However viewed the volume of PA3 this game was huge; if not inordinately large.
By contrast AIK did not appear to change their areas of penetration between the halves; here’s how there’s took shape for the game:
A very balanced approach by AIK through the game; not just after the final whistle blew but even at halftime those numbers are representative. For me barring any other information this speaks to good discipline in having a balanced threat across the pitch. While AIK only scored one goal they did achieve a draw – a solid result for the Swedish side against an opponent who absolutely peppered them with penetrations.
Of particular note about the PTFC PWP outside of the attacking third; there were very few goal kicks and a very limited number of back-four long balls this game. Building from the back and applying pressure to gain turnovers was a regular mode of ball movement; especially in the second half.
Before offering up the Team diagrams one additional observation. Earlier I had considered the idea of keeping track of how many times a team possesses the ball. In watching these last few games and tracking other details I’ve hit upon the Capt. Obvious that many of you already know. There is no point in tracking number of possessions because, at the end of the day, they will be equal.
So on to the team PWP Diagrams.
Obviously the green of Portland Timbers shows through – complete domination in PWP; with this being a pre-season game and no impact on a league table it’s most likely many people left the game satisfied with the overall performance.
Some of the best travelling teams are those that can eke out a draw in a hostile environment; AIK did that and they should be given credit for getting that draw here in JELD-WEN Field. A tough defensive team that showed strong character in their games leading up to this one.
Some closing thoughts…
To be honest I was gob-smacked at the amount of possession and movement (on and off the ball) that occurred in this game. Time will tell as the pre-season unfolds but the overall entertainment value created was superb.
There remain some issues however, I’m not yet convinced that the back-four has taken complete shape and with New York coming into town the defense WILL be tested.
1. I liked the idea of seeing Harrington penetrate (where appropriate) the top corner of the 18 yard box with Nagbe driving deep; I don’t recall seeing Darlington doing that too often in the past. The greater variation that Darlington brings to his game the better this team gets. Obviously it was that combination that led to the equalizer.
2. The same can be offered with Miller on the right; Alhassan has a wicked cross from deep in the corner and superb touch from outside the box; more penetration (when appropriate) into the top corner of the 18 may help Ryan provide more support for this team in creating GSO’s.
3. More time is needed for DTG and AJB; it’s still unclear when Horst will be healthy and Mosquera, I think, still needs more polish on staying tight and in line with his back-four partners.
4. I am hopeful Silvestre is ready to go this weekend; if so there will be a great opportunity to see Silvestre and Henry renew their battles from the days of Man United and Arsenal; nevermind that both played at the same time for France. Yes; both are a wee bit older but passion for soccer runs deep – there will be no love loss for these two guys come Sunday!
In closing my previous article prior to the AIK match I wondered which team would dictate the flow of the game; clearly PTFC dictated the match to AIK. I am hopeful that is a worthy outcome from the home opener.