Timbers Take One Point in Draw with Colorado

That’s the headline but the real story here, in my view, is the continued inability of Portland to score the first goal or for that matter the only goal.

Defense first has and should continue to be the focus for the Timbers as they return to JELD-WEN field this weekend to take on Houston.

My adage last year in beginning this effort was Defense First, Defense Second, and Attack Third – with the ‘Third’ being penetration into the attacking third.

Four games in and Portland have now conceded 8 goals; that is an average of 2 goals against… worse than last years team (1.65 GA).

Like Spencer, Porter has come in and offered up that this will be an attacking team that can take three points from anyone, anywhere, at anytime.  Great words to hear but the reality after 2 years and a month in is that Portland is not regularly taking three points from anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

There is no exception to this rule; if a team cannot score against you – you cannot lose.  In every game this year Portland has had to claw back.  The two most recent being their away games in Seattle and Colorado.

In recalling away games late last year a trend I saw was that Portland would start the game in a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 or some derivative that wasn’t a basic (bog-standard) bucket/diamond 4-4-2.  In those later games, where early goals were conceded, a tactical move at halftime (or later) saw the team move towards a 4-4-2 type system.

It would seem reasonable to me that the next away game this team has the first consideration should be what personnel are needed in a basic/bog-standard 4-4-2 system to shut the opponent down in the first half AND second half.

A CLEAN SHEET is and should be the primary goal of this team; they will never reach that nexus of being a dominant attacking and winning team (anywhere, anytime) without first shutting the opponent down with defense.

So how about this game in particular? 

Again, unfortunately, the weakness came from atop the 18 and just inside on the PTFC right.  AJB does a good job but good isn’t good enough; his learning curve is steep and solid support from veterans that surround him needs to be there; again it wasn’t.

Jewsbury drifted back (perhaps to protect Baptiste?)  just before that stunning power shot from Powers and both Zemanski and Baptiste had their shorts ripped by a nifty move from Cascio where Chara had to step in.

I’m still not sure if Chara clipped Cascio’s right heal; a Rapids player was perfectly placed to block that view on video…  for most it’s probably not a surprise that Chara offered his toe to Cascio’s heal; it isn’t to me either.

The first two games saw him play very disciplined; but the last two – not so much.  The achilles heal for Chara last year were his fouls (72 with 10 yellows) in not-so-good places.

My argument in defense of Chara this game is – “IF” Chara did clip Cascio’s heal in the penalty box then why didn’t he get booked?

My guess is he didn’t clip the heal and the referee (all nine games of MLS under his belt) blew the call! 

(Editorial – after further review Chara did indeed clip Cascio’s heal – so in effect the Referee still blew the call in that he didn’t book Chara with at least a Yellow – some think a Red card might be appropriate there as well).

This comment still stands…  So what about some verbal towards the referee on this?  In the UK there would be a ‘stewards inquiry’ into this call; I hope there’s one here too (or whatever they call it).

But perhaps there is an underlying issue here with depth on the right side of midfield?   More later this week on this question…

So enough about spilled milk; down to some gritty details about the data on this game…

I took the same approach this game as all others and tracked penetrations into the ‘red-zone’ (by location) but also added a twist in tracking the locations on ‘where’ Portland and Colorado originated their goal scoring opportunities.

In addition, I also tracked this info by 15 minute increments… not sure what it may provide as time passes, but there is some juice to squeeze I think.

No pictures today…  more later this week.  But for now Portland penetrated the Colorado ‘red-zone’ 34 times (17 each half) with their most productive times coming in the second 15 minutes of each half (8 each).

Colorado penetrated the Portland ‘red-zone’ 38 times (17 1st half – 21 2nd half) with the final 15 minutes being their most productive (8 times).

As for creating goal scoring opportunities; PTFC created 34 GSO’s from 34 PA3 while CRFC created 34 GSO’s from 38 PA3.

The most efficient 15 minute block of attacking, for Portland, came in the 2nd 15 minute period of the first half (9 GSO’s); right after Colorado scored their first goal.

Their final 45 minutes saw them generate 19 GSO’s from 17 PA3.  A very efficient offering and it should be noted that Portland were running a two striker attacking formation during that time.

The most efficient 15 minute block of attacking, for Colorado, came in the 2nd 15 minute block of the final 45 minutes (10 GSO’s from 7 PA3).

So… the most aggressive 15 minute period (60-75 minute mark) for Colorado (against the Portland defense) was during the stretch where PTFC were running the two-striker formation.

The Timbers allowed no goals and only one shot taken that I recall (at the 64th minute) – a stunner that Ricketts saved; stretching out 150% of his body length like Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic four.

The save of the week in my opinion!

On to the locations of penetration… 

We play Colorado three times this year; perhaps there will be some trends to pick out?

Like the last three games PTFC had great variation in PA3 – 12 from the left, 11 from the right and 11 from the middle.  GSO’s on the other hand indicated that Portland shifted focus (once in the red-zone) to create goals from the right (15) or left (13) as opposed to the middle (6).

In other words while PTFC may penetrate the red-zone in one location they don’t limit themselves to creating GSO’s from the same location that they penetrate; there is additional goodness in this as it adds to the variation teams must prepare for.

Or… another way… did CRFC shut down the initial attack (defended well) and Portland had to alter/adjust to a different part of the red-zone?

For the Rapids attack; they drove into the PTFC red-zone down the left more frequently (19) than the right (11) or middle (8).

And their GSO’s seemed to hold true that where they penetrated is where they tried to create a GSO; (16 – left), (12 – right), and (6 – middle).

In looking at these numbers a few things stand out for me in general…

For both teams, when they did penetrate the red-zone, they usually created a GSO; but when viewing the shots taken (11 for PTFC) and (18 for CRFC) the more aggressive and more efficient team was CRFC.

While creating GSO’s on the wings Colorado ended up with 14 shots being taken from the middle of the pitch, with only 1 coming from the right and 2 coming from the left.

Even more interesting is the overall number of shots taken, by Colorado, from outside the 18 yard box; OPTA in the UK tracks goalkeeper efficiency on shots taken inside and outside the 18 yard box.

Perhaps Colorado have taken a peek at those private numbers here in the US and spotted a trend on Ricketts?  It’s no secret to some that the best goalkeepers are those that save shots taken from outside the 18 the most; that’s where positioning and reaction time are ‘equals’ for most ‘keepers.

And although Portland had great variation in penetrating the red-zone, and where the GSO’s came from, the bottom line here was 10 shots were taken from the middle while only 1 came from the left side.

Given that 4 of those 10 shots were blocked it would appear that Colorado did a great job of clogging the middle 18 – and with two center-backs not ‘normal’ to the squad a great achievement really.

This is the first game where Portland had lower overall possession with purpose data than the opponent; was this down to altitude, wind, or a combination thereof?

Yea PTFC appeared to have more time of possession but that number is generated by the amount of passes a team has compared to the other one; it’s not a result of really ‘timing’ possession of the ball with a stopwatch…

My hypothesis has been that climate, as much as score-line, may influence possession with purpose; Porter indicated as much that they hadn’t properly planned for the impact of the wind…

But I’m of two minds on this one; it’s the same for both team so it shouldn’t matter; yet the style of ball I have seen this team play is a ground based (short passing) attack that the wind should not impact that much.

Who knows, maybe part of the approach was to play a little mix of direct and possession based ball this game; I don’t know…  with a 4-3-3/4-5-1 hybrid it seemed to me they would be playing the ball closer to the ground – they didn’t…

Bottom line here is that Colorado (with 7 starters missing) played a much better attacking style of football than Portland.

Yea – PTFC took two points away from Colorado and walked out of their with one point – point is great teams win on the road… Brutal it is but results are what count… Portland is not a great team (yet) this year… but there are 30 more games to go.

Lest I forget…

The BEST for last; Will Johnson was brought into this side to bring leadership, grit and a bit of ‘smack’ to prevent this team from giving up.

Flippin’ heck – true to the word and a brace of goals to include the first goal from a PK, by Portland, in ages…

Enuf said…

Next up my diagrams on the data outputs and some additional thoughts on what they might indicate…


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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