Match Preview – Twin Spin – PTFC vs SJFC Sunday 8 PM

Ah… the rare occasion where direct results from last week’s game can be used to prepare for this week’s game.

While I don’t believe that to be 100% accurate there is something to be gained… but how much?

If you recall here’s what my match preview punditry offered up before the first game last Sunday.

“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?”

In my view they did that – while San Jose didn’t play quite as deeply as Montreal this game they did drop very deep and pack the 18 when Portland did penetrate the attacking third; otherwise they attempted to play high and tight to limit midfield possession.

To counter that (around the 18 minute mark when Futty took a knock I think) I sense Porter (when he called the guys over) made a tactical change to begin generating more switches and more direct through balls to get past that ‘high and tight’ approach.

To try and support that thought here’s what my detailed Possession with Purpose data indicates on PA3 and GSO’s for Portland last weekend…

kickoff -> 15 minutes           PA3 =   8     GSO = 3

15 minutes -> 30 minutes    PA3 =  8     GSO = 5

30 minutes -> 45 minutes    PA3 = 14   GSO = 11  (tactical change around? the 18 minute mark)

45 minutes -> 60 minutes    PA3 = 6     GSO =   9  (half time defensive tactical change by San Jose? ‘or’ Portland playing laying back to weather the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half?)

60 minutes -> 75 minutes   PA3 = 10   GSO = 11  (the Portland onslaught begins…)

75 minutes -> 90 minutes   PA3 = 10   GSO = 9

For me there is clear distinction between the first part of the game leading towards the second half and then a clear distinction from the 60 minute period onward…

I would submit that there were three tactical adjustments made (at least) during this game…

1.  Portland adjusted at around that 18 minute point,

2.  San Jose made adjustments at the half to neutralize those changes and generate some energy to get an early goal in the second half,

3.  Portland kicked in the afterburners and blew San Jose across the pitch at will in the final 30 minutes of play.

So what do the 15-minute intervals look like for San Jose?

kickoff – > 15 minutes         PA3 = 5    GSO = 4

15 minutes -> 30 minutes   PA3 = 5    GSO = 5

30 minutes – > 45 minutes  PA3 = 4    GSO = 2

It would appear San Jose was concentrating more on defending against a  goal and relying on the counterattack as opposed to any other strategy… I would offer that was the approach used for the entire first half given these low offensive (do I mean rude here?) numbers.  Another view is that the defense for Portland did a great job of neutralizing the middle of the pitch and simply shut down San Jose.

45 minutes -> 60 minutes   PA3 = 7    GSO = 7  (San Jose 2nd half energy boost? or Portland playing silly buggers with San Jose?)

60 minutes -> 75 minutes   PA3 = 2    GSO = 1  (San Jose basically shut down offensively)

75 minutes -> 90 minutes   PA3 = 5    GSO = 5  (Last 5 minutes (added time) was where 3 of those 5 PA3’s occurred and 4 of those 5 GSO’s)  – PTFC hunkering down to preserve the win

So what else can be offered up that might support some strategy that San Jose could employ in this twin-spin?

Direct Play Tendencies for San Jose To Date

Direct Play Tendencies for San Jose To Date


Their TOP this game was the lowest of any game this year (32 minutes).

Their number of direct balls from Square 1 (Keeper Box) had the highest ratio compared to minutes of possession, with the Seattle game being next.

Their amount of direct balls from Square 1 targeting the area past the midfield line were the highest numbers this year; with the Seattle game being next.

Their amount of “flick-ons” this game FAR exceeded that of any game previously; nearly doubling all other individual games this year.

Note that the green shaded bar appears to be lower in relation to the blue shaded bar (inverse relationship) in other words the more they possess the ball the fewer Flick-ons they rely on to move the ball forward.

While I’m not sure an example like this has relevance throughout the entire season it would seem to appear that the less time of possession San Jose have the more they rely on direct balls from square 1 and flick-ons to move the ball forward.

Put another way – San Jose specifically took the approach to play direct ball and concede time of possession.  And they did not try to advance the ball on the ground that much this game in comparison to Portland; who had 25 balls from square 1, with 18 of them targeting past the midfield line, and only 13 flick-ons.

So what does all this mean for this weekend?

I continue to sense that San Jose will look to play the same style of direct attacking football that they did in JELD-WEN but with it being a home game the intensity and frequency of those direct balls might increase considerably.  High pressure, poking, and prodding will again need to be the norm for the Timbers midfield.

Crosses last week were an all time low for San Jose – look for that to increase considerably…

Seattle is known for possession based football – the approach used against Seattle (in Buck Shaw Stadium) was the same approach used by San Jose in JELD-WEN last weekend.  They almost came away with a draw in Portland and that same approach got them 3 points in that 1-nil victory against Seattle; I expect to see that same approach again.

By the way – here’s the run on how Wondolowski scored the lone goal against Seattle:  

“Wondolowski broke through seconds into first-half stoppage time via two impressive pieces of skill. As Jon Busch’s long boot from the edge of the Quakes’ area skidded off the head of Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Wondolowski brought the ball down with the outside of his right foot, gently enough that he could set himself for a ripped shot from 22 yards.”

A long ball that generated a ‘second chance ball’ that Wondo scored on…  go figure!!!

My opine is that Gordon will be replaced by Jahn and San Jose will go with three up top – they did run a 4-4-2 with Gordon and Lenhart both out against Seattle but Lenhart is healthy and Wondo likes to poach around their far left – he was ineffective playing deep in the midfield last weekend and his position should change at home.

Like the last game – this game should be pretty physical – direct ball play lends itself to stop-start as we have seen with both Houston and San Jose these last two weeks.

To counter that I feel Porter runs the same formation he did last week with one exception begin Valeri returns to the CAM like role and KAH returns to the subs bench; Wallace’s defensive upside (this is an away game) on shutting down high crosses from our left side (plus his vertical jump) add a better blend, in my opinion, than the ‘nifty touches’ we see from KAH.

And with Jewsbury remaining high on the pitch the need for switches and crosses from that area better suit the leg strength of JJ; Chara continues to show his ability in the attacking half and hopefully he can come through this game without fouling anyone in the defending half…

And with KAH on the bench Porter can always bring on his fresh legs to lend a different attacking approach if the game warrants that type of action… otherwise with Miller and Zemanski playing well in the reserves Porter can call on either of those two to shore up the midfield (late on) if Portland has the lead.

And if the score-line dictates Valencia is on the subs bench as well and he has a +3 on plus/minus – lending credit to his ability to help his team generate goals if behind in the late stages of the game.

In closing…

I gotta believe a draw here is a very good result – three points would be absolutely superb but bottom line the song remains the same – clean sheet and Rose City ‘Til I Die…

By the way – if Baptiste is healthy it’s probably a good bet he returns to the starting 11 – but given Futty’s superb play last week I think that gets him a place on the subs bench.

I can see the added length of the pitch might work to the benefit of both teams – 5 additional yards in length give Portland more midfield space to move and pass while that same added length might give San Jose that one extra step to deliver a few more crosses into the box – especially down our right/their left.

If Futty gets added to the subs bench look for Nanchoff to get the final slot as opposed to DTG; Nanchoff did get a brace of goals in the reserve match last weekend and pretty much ran the midfield along with Zemanski…

Finishing touches – I did offer up that I would submit some Player Evaluations this week – I will defer them to next week and offer up a ‘compare and contrast between home and away’…

Defense first, defense second, attack third…

Next up my match analysis of this twin-spin…


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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