News Portland Timbers Sports

Timbers Player Evaluations vs Montreal Impact

Game 2 has come and gone and the Timbers have only 1 point to show from their first two home games.

It is what it is…

Like my first Player Evaluation offering I’m inclined to offer up some initial conditions before getting into the details.  Here’s the link to my definitions in how I grade player performance.

Setting the conditions…

1.  For those that may have missed it here’s a quote from Caleb Porter.

Thoughts on the match:

“Certainly it’s disappointing not to get a result. We prepared all week for the way that they would play against us, and just about everything we thought they would do, they did. We knew they would hit us on counterattacks and we knew they would hit us on set pieces. If you look at the goals they scored, one was a set piece and the other was on a counterattack. It’s disappointing that we let them hurt us twice in moments that we prepared for all week, and it’s disappointing to give up two goals on only seven shots.”

2.   Clearly a game plan was developed and player’s roles and responsibilities would have been laid out to handle initial expectations.

3.  Only the coaching staff know if all the players performed to those roles.

4.  This is exactly why I don’t like offering up individual player evaluations.  No-one, apart from the coaching staff, really know what direction and guidance the players were given to execute the game-plan against Montreal.

With that said here’s some interesting things I saw during this game that surprised me and my have influenced my player grades more or less than others.

1.  Harrington and Miller both penetrated much deeper than I expected.

2.  The back-four during this game was not a back-four’ it was almost like a ‘last-four’ comprised of who didn’t penetrate deep – usually Will Johnson, Diego Chara (Zemanski) Baptiste and Silvestre.

3.  It appeared to me like our full-backs were really playing a role of wing-back.

4.  It seemed like the entire focus of this team was to get the ball forward without due care and attention to risk.

5.  Montreal simply played superb defense and literally shut down their 18 yard box; who knows by the end of this season Montreal might be the best team in the Eastern Conference.

6.  Montreal was the veteran team out there; they were patient and let Portland do all the work; typical Italian football!

7.  Portland pushed the game; perhaps too much – a more measured approach to poke and prod a bit higher might yield more space in the 18 when teams like this are played again; there are 90 minutes in a game and there is no rule that says the team that scores the quickest or earliest will win.

8.  My own initial expectations in what I thought I would may cloud my expectation and analysis; my thoughts were that Portland would run Valencia at the start and play far more crosses from up high while also looking to play more switches down deep from the center-backs.

Player Evaluations:

Donovan Ricketts:

Kept this game close.  As noted some crackin’ saves but at times a bit wobbly for me. In keeping this game close; like he did against New York he is doing a very good job for this team.  Others may view this differently but he really is a good goal keeper; I think his height makes him look ungainly when he really isn’t.

Final Grade B.

Michael Harrington:

Bombed down the wing on his pass to Johnson that led to the turnover; a more prudent defensive thinking defender would have held position. Not bad in taking on the overall role it appeared he was supposed to play; but very disappointing that it took a half-time break to get him to deliver more crosses into the box.

It was hard to tell how effective he might have been in his fullback role as he was rarely in a traditional back-four formation for Portland that game. To confirm here’s a snapshot on his activity in OPTA.

Final Grade C.

Mikael Silvestre:

Better this game and getting his game legs but still hard to quantify. I didn’t see glaring mistakes and he sure looked to be more fleet of foot than Nesta.

If the strategy would have been to hunker down instead of watch his line mates continually pressing forward we might have seen a more functional back-four than what appeared this game.

Final Grade C.

AJ Baptiste:

Still needs work, guilty of ball watching on the defensive end instead of marking the runner into the box on the second goal. At times is good with his feet and at times not.

I still remain steadfastly stubborn and stubbornly steadfast that AJ will develop into one of the more prominent center-backs in this league.

Final Grade C.

Ryan Miller:

He handled his defensive role pretty well when actually in residence but for this game he probably spent more time in the attacking half than defending half.

And when reviewing OPTA he did; amazing really.  An additional observation; if Ryan is going to play down the wing that much and he is working to improve his crosses then he really needs to put in crosses.

Final Grade C.

Will Johnson:

Like others a wee bit guilty of not tracking back on the second goal; the rush to pass the ball instead of taking a touch or two got the better of him at the wrong moment; still a hard worker and a great burden to Captain this side this game.

Otherwise not a bad game in looking to shut down the center, along with Chara, of Montreal.  I didn’t see any water bottles get thrown out this game and it did seem like there was more frustration with his own personal game than compelling evidence in overall leadership for the team.

This will always remain a challenge for a Team Captain when touches or little bits just don’t seem to be gelling.

Final Grade C.

Diego Chara:

Did well when asked to move up top right and provided a great link across the pitch – unfortunately that was more a sign of slow decision making in the first half by others than anything else.

Overall a pretty good game and again he came away with a personal clean sheet on getting booked.  This has to weigh heavy on Diego given his pedigree for careless fouls last year.

Final Grade B.

Diego Valeri:

Under pressure most of the game and given very little space in which to work.  Did well but as the attacking midfielder but perhaps he could have read the ‘packed 18’ differently and slid out wider to drop in crosses that failed to come from the wings.

His overall finishing touches were slightly off this game and not because of his own ability; his minimal impact was due to great defending by Bernier and others.

Final Grade C.

Darlington Nagbe:

Good penetration and tracking back as appropriate; continues to impress under the direction and leadership of Porter.  As he and Valeri get more time together this should be a potent duo.

Darlington got booked this game and the yellow doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the location of the foul.   We saw plenty of Portland players foul opponents in our defending half last year and set-pieces win games.

Of all the people on this team this person I least expected to get booked was Darlington.  Perhaps it was a dive; hard to tell watching the replay given the angle but a foul in the defending third/half is not good.

Final Grade C.

Ryan Johnson:

Goal scored and read the situation enough to know that more crosses needed to come into the 18 yard box to shake things up a bit; amazing that he was the player with the most crosses in the first half – that’s not right.

A #9 is not the player who should be delivering crosses; he should be the target. I won’t offer a negative comment on his shot for goal when a square ball across the box to Darlington might have been a better choice in hindsight.

Strikers are strikers and part of their game includes being selfish at times; they are, after all, paid to put the ball in the back of the net.  A likely scenario could have seen a deflection just we saw in the game against New York.

Final Grade B.

Kalif Alhassan:

Pretty much in the ozone the whole first half – rarely was he man-marked way out wide and the complete lack of delivering crosses this game mystifies me.  Perhaps he had other direction?  If so, I don’t get why.

Good decision to pull him at the start of the second half.

Final Grade D.

Ben Zemanski:

Brought on as the CDM in the second half until Miller was replaced by Valencia.  Provided 4 crosses with a killer one to Johnson around the 80 minute mark that got this team Goal 1.

First real time I have seen him play; unsure what depth his capabilities go but his touch off the chest and delivery of that cross was good, very good.  If he can play fullback (wing-back) I and deliver better crosses I can see no reason why he doesn’t start in place of Miller.

Final Grade B.

Jose Valencia:

Unfortunate that he didn’t get a look-in sooner; his pace could have worn down the fullbacks and given the back-four a great target for switches; I’m still struggling to understand why he didn’t start.

Nevertheless, not enough time for him to impact this game and in that position, near full time, he’s got to shoot for the far post – not the near post!

Final Grade C.

Rodney Wallace:

Like Valencia probably not enough time to impact this game; good energy but again it seemed like he was just as deep as Harrington in the short time he was on the pitch.

Final Grade C.

In closing many of the justifications offered are those that made the most impression on me relative to that players performance; others will certainly have different view.

Next up my Preview for the game against Seattle this coming Saturday.

You can follow me on twitter here

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.