Preview – Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders

Huge game coming up this Saturday against Seattle Sounders; for me it’s not so much about who plays for Seattle but about what formation and who plays within that formation for Portland in this maiden away game of 2013.

To date we all know Portland has opened the new season with Caleb Porter at the helm in not the best of circumstances.  A wicked nail biter with tons of action to open the season and a less than satisfactory performance against the extremely strong defending team of Montreal.

What’s past is past and it’s time to move on to game 3.  No frills here – too much history between these two clubs to paint this game anything other than ‘inordinately large’.

No doubt Seattle will have a sell-out crowd with their fans looking to see the Sounders take three points.

I might almost offer that the strategy employed by Montreal in their game here might be the strategy used by Portland in this first away game.

It’s unclear and we won’t know until 30 minutes before kickoff.  But perhaps there are some indicators we can review that might help paint a better picture.

Indicators and Questions for your consideration:

With Zizzo injured we saw a slight change in tactics with Zemanski coming on for Portland against Montreal in the second half; this move, in myview, shifted Portland from a 4-3-3 to more of a diamond 4-4-2.

Good or bad Alhassan was ineffective in his role as a forward against Montreal and he contributed very few crosses to try and shake things up in the 18 yard box.

In addition we didn’t see Miller contribute many crosses either so what might that mean when it comes to penetrating down the right side?

Much of the ground work is coming from down the left side and strong relationships are developing between Harrington, Nagbe and Valeri; if deeper penetration down this wing occurs will we see more crosses or will Harrington remain a bit higher and think defense first?

Portland has yet to play a solid game in defense this year; yielding 5 goals already; might we see a more traditional flat back four this game knowing that the attacking side of this team can be quite dangerous?

Could we see when Portland looks to possess the ball they take more time to ‘control’ the game within the midfield and take a more patient buildup – less risk – in penetrating deep into the attacking third?

Sometimes less is more; we have seen both New York and Montreal come into JELD-WEN, a very hostile environment, and come away with more after penetrating less.

In both games this year New York and Montreal have attempted to penetrate down the PTFC left wing more than the right wing.  Might we see Seattle try the same thing; they did, after all look to penetrate more down the Montreal left wing two weeks ago?

Midfield control; if Portland trot out in a 4-4-2 (diamond or bucket) I’m hopeful that the Timbers will work hard, very hard, to close down and get as many counterattacking opportunities as they can.

Chara and Johnson are wicked strong in making tackles and if/when physical contact is made; the further outside the defending third the better.  Set-pieces win games; it’s about time Portland got a goal from a set piece instead of the opponent.

Starting Formation:

My flutter is that Portland open the game in a more traditional 4-4-2; be it diamond or bucket.  For me it doesn’t really matter given the talent this team has.

Any one of three midfielders (Zemanski, Johnson, or Chara could rotate back into a CDM) and any one of those same three midfielders can defensively balance one side as penetration occurs on the other side.

For me the three most potent attacking threats on this team are Ryan Johnson, Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri; that gives Portland balance if and when we see either Miller or Harrington penetrate down the wings while leveraging Johnson, Chara or Zemanski to lay off and look for loose balls atop the 18.

The back-four needs more time to play and gel as a back-four as opposed to a ‘last-four’; this game provides the opportunity for these four guys to work better and stronger at communication and control… (Miller, Baptiste, Silvestre and Harrington).

In considering the success Montreal had in packing the 18 with bodies might we see Portland attempt the same approach that Montreal did (to success) against Seattle and Portland?

A clean sheet here will go a very long way in helping to create confidence in these guys capabilities.

The eleven:

Ricketts, Miller, Baptiste, Silvestre, Harrington, Chara, Zemanski, Johnson, Valeri, Nagbe and Johnson.

Next up:

Post-game; what happened, where it happened and the success on possession with purpose.

Be sure to click ‘recommend’ if you enjoy my offerings on statistics and their relevance to what is happening on the pitch.

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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