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Match Preview – Portland Timbers vs San Jose Sunday Evening – JELD-WEN

For starters…

The long trek through this season doesn’t get any easier and these next two games (back to back) against the Supporters Shield winners from last year will be a huge, if not an inordinately large, challenge for the Timbers.

Aye, last weekend we saw a revamped starting 11 and a wholesome result with a clean sheet, a very entertaining game and three points; “Keep it up, Rose City!”

Will we see three more points?  Quite a challenge to be sure – Chris Wondolowski showed pedigree last year with his finishing and things don’t look a lot different this year.

Here’s how Wondo and gang look in Shots Taken, Shots on Goal and Goals Scored so far this year…

San Jose Earthquakes Shot Takers, Shots on Goal and Goals Scored

San Jose Earthquakes Shot Takers, Shots on Goal and Goals Scored

The Capt Obvious here is Wondolowski leading the team in Shots Taken, Shots on Goal and Goals Scored; go figure?

As for the other primary guys putting their boot to the ball; Corrales (Left Side) and Baca (Central MF) are next up with 9 and 7 respectively.

A bit deceptive though is the lack of shots by Gordon and Lenhart; only now are they beginning to get some minutes; (98 total for Gordon and just 21 for Lenhart).

So how are things looking for the Timbers this year with these same stats?

PORTLAND TIMBERS SHOTS TAKEN, SHOTS ON GOAL AND GOALS SCORED

PORTLAND TIMBERS SHOTS TAKEN, SHOTS ON GOAL AND GOALS SCORED

It may be hard to see but note the little Yellow Star down by Ryan Johnson’s name… the reason for that star is his current ratio of shots taken to shots on goal and goals scored (my individual productivity ratios for strikers).

I’m not sure how it stacks up against everyone else in the MLS but 75% of his shots taken are on goal and 50% of his shots on goal result in a goal scored; we did not see that type of production from anyone last year – and it’s a safe bet Ryan costs one heck of a lot less than Boyd!

It’s numbers like those that warrant the title “Striker”… last year Portland had Forwards, at this stage, this year, Portland has a true Striker…

That’s not the only thing interesting I see in this diagram; the leader in shots is Diego Valeri with Will Johnson and Darlington Nagbe 2nd and 3rd.

Signs, in my view of a very productive midfield not only in creating goal scoring opportunities but taking shots relative to those GSO’s.

So what are the trends for Portland and San Jose, to date, given the limited Possession with Purpose data available?

LIMITED POSSESSION WITH PURPOSE DATA FOR PTFC VS SAN JOSE

LIMITED POSSESSION WITH PURPOSE DATA FOR PTFC VS SAN JOSE

Like Houston it does not appear that San Jose are a possession based team – even there pundits in this video (around 3/4 of the way through it) offer that San Jose needs to get the ball wide (anyway they can) and look to deliver crosses….

For me (others may have a different view) this speaks more to direct attacking football as opposed to possession based football.

And when looking at the individual numbers with midfielders trying to take up the slack, without Gordon or Lenhart, it’s pretty reasonable to see why San Jose has not scored a lot this year (5 goals).

So how about the tendencies of San Jose so far in delivering crosses (the key point offered up by their own pundit)…

SAN JOSE CROSSING TENDENCIES TO DATE

SAN JOSE CROSSING TENDENCIES TO DATE

It appears there is a slight lean towards San Jose popping crosses in from the left with their primary target being the far right post of the defense.

This is pretty much what PTFC experienced last year with San Jose picking on Kimura quite regularly.  I would expect that tendency to be the same come Sunday evening.

But what has been missing from the San Jose attack is the presence of a big body to go with Wondolowski; with Gordon or Lenhart in there it may be likely that more balls from the back four might come in as well with Wondolowski feeding off those target guys too.

Tidbits and some punditry (in no particular order) for your consideration…

In considering the info available might we see San Jose adopt a deep-drop defensive stance and look to play the counter with direct balls (something similar to Montreal) and push for width on this small pitch?

If so, might we see Portland respond with their own brand of deep switches and crosses?

However this game goes the midfield will have to remain engaged 100%; direct ball play can get tiresome and lull the opponent into getting lazy and ball watching…

I would offer that Alhassan and Wallace will balance the wings with RJ up top; Nagbe should probably return to the role he took when Valeri got injured… I don’t see the back four changing any, at this time either, so that will again leave Chara and Johnson to shut down the center.

In filling out the subs bench my submittal is that Nanchoff and DTG return with Horst and Valeri injured.

Plus/Minus (NHL Statistic applied to MLS Soccer)

I did a quick check on the Portland Timbers plus/minus to date this year that tracks ‘playing time on the pitch relative to opponent goals and your own team goals.

The leader in plus/minus for PTFCat this time is Rodney Wallace with a +5, next up are Valencia (+3) and then Piq (+2).  This is early days but I do offer there is some value in knowing that the substitutes that have been used so far this year are on the “plus side” as opposed to “minus side”.

Over the course of the next week or so I will take some time to see how other players across MLS fare with this statistic… perhaps it provides an indicator of sorts on ‘super – subs’ perhaps not; won’t know till I check it out.

Some additional tidbits ..

A minus for the subs might indicate those substitutions were not of value…  perhaps others have a different view?

Might MLS use this stat to create a 12th man like the NBA uses stats for the 6th man?  I don’t recall MLS having a ’12th man’ but I’ve not been tracking MLS that long so I may have missed it… 

What about super subs for defense as well as attack… might there be two categories for super subs?

Those who come on to ‘defend’ and shut the opponent down versus those who might be brought on to attack to score a late equalizer or winner…

Might it have value relative to what national team players get ‘considered for selection’ how does the regular season plus/minus stack up for the USMNT or other national teams?

Hard to say and perhaps those types of questions are reaching a bit… anyhow – some stuff to chew and digest or some stuff to spew??? — i don’t know…

In closing…

Can Portland garner two clean sheets in a row against another top team in MLS?

The challenge will be managing the passion Sunday night as much as the play; Wondolowski and Lenhart are irritating gits and patience with possession to pass, push, press, prod and poke should put Portland in a good position to win.

The game is afoot – Timber-taka was alive and kicking last week; I hope another 20 pass combination can be added to the video vault.

Defense first, defense second and attack third.

 

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.