Match Analysis – Portland Timbers 5 – Wilmington Hammerheads 1

Piquionne packs a punch as Porter’s Portland pulverize Hammerheads as they head home hoping highlights stay hidden – and to make matters marvelous Seattle Sounders “slither”, slink, slide and slip soundlessly back to Puget Sound…

Note   – Double entendre courtesy of @theaxepdx and “slithers” being a worthy recommendation by Butch York (Timbers Army Northern Alliance).

So with that what to offer?

What I won’t do today is hopefully repeat any of the reputable and reputedly superb and sublime offerings  of the Portland Timbers press release captured  here or the @theaxepdx offerings captured here as well.

Forward into the past…

Two days ago Corey Cox (Timbers Army Northern Alliance) offered up some great comments on my match preview through Facebook and made some suggestions on who some good players to watch for might be with the Hammerheads given how little was really known about that team.  And with this being a Cup game it’s never really known (even with stern voices saying otherwise) what the outcome of a match might be… just ask Seattle or turn the page back to this time last year.

But before getting to thoughts from Corey here’s some other thoughts for your consideration working from my match preview…

JELD-WEN – No sell-out crowd last night but the Army was in full swing – straightaway Wilmington were on their heals and as noted by many writers already — Piq opened up the scoring with a luvly header in less than two minutes…  the memory of last year already fading away.

Weather – Not the rain predicted but still a bit nippy in the air – a blanket would have done well for those sitting; otherwise plenty of fans standing throughout to keep the edge off as the sun went down.  Good night for Futty; erh…. I mean footy…

Standings – You win – you’re in — you lose – you’re out…  Portland is in and Seattle is out!

As noted in my match preview there might be some lads playing with chips on their shoulders; and in the post game interviews it was noted that players on the team last year took time this week to share with the new guys about that pain suffered.

Well times change and not only did the players play with ‘chips on their shoulders’ during the game both Piquionne and Futty actually wore those chips after this game.  Big chips to start and even bigger chips to finish!

Formation – Well here’s where deception, nuance and intrigue come in – Portland opened (press roster) in a 4-4-2 while MLS called it a 4-3-3.  And as the game took shape there were some glimpses of how the team executed in DC but some other snippets that weren’t offered in DC…  Bottom line here is this was a Cup game against a lower division club and it’s awfully hard to offer up detailed grist that might relate to regular season MLS play.

For now I’ll simply offer that Nagbe played a great floating role across the entire breadth of the pitch and with Wilmington not presenting significant danger he was afforded even more space and time to influence this game.

And yes, he didn’t have any direct assists on the goals scored in the run of play – he didn’t need too and it’s probably better that he didn’t.  I’m not to sure how well that reads but the danger from Nagbe in this game came from the space he created by being elsewhere more than the space he created by being nearby…

Good players attract attention and sometimes it’s not a good thing to have two good players to close together – makes it easier to defend — perhaps others have a different view?

So that is two games running in a 4-4-2 where Caleb has added a slightly different tweak – the greater the variation the better.

Goals Scored – As noted in my match preview Paul Nicholson was their leading goal scorer and a likely scenario would see them scoring on a set-piece – he scored and they scored on a set-piece; thankfully Portland also scored and scored in droves…

I have to say it – in my match preview I indicated this was “a good opportunity for Piq to open his goal account for Portland”… he didn’t just open it he slammed it wide open and shook the foundation of JELD-WEN with a performance in finishing that almost beggars belief.

As @thexepdx noted one of those center-backs will probably recall this game in the future as a head coach somewhere and use it as a great example on how not to play center-back…

Enuf said on goals scored here by me – here’s those offerings I promised earlier that Corey Cox put together…

Thoughts from Corey Cox…

“The two players that I saw from Wilmington that were the most productive, were #16 Kyle Greig, who had numerous attempts at goal, including a missed diving header on a cross attempt, and another header attempt that was directed downward in between Kocic’s legs that nearly got through, only to be covered by the keeper.   Greig had various other offensive attempts, and looked to be the most aggressive player on Wilmington’s side in the 18 yard box, but then he was subbed out late into the 2nd half by #11 Steven Perry, who was not nearly as effective. ”

“The other player that obviously had some offensive impact, was #4, Paul Nicholson, who had the only goal for Wilmington.   His goal was from a corner kick, where his (he) had a simple juggle while facing away from the goal and then quickly turned and shot over his left shoulder for an arcing goal into the back of he net.   His shot was angling away from the keeper (Kocic) into the opposite corner, and Kocic could do nothing to try to stop it.   This was the only attempt that I saw Paul Nicholson have on the night, as there were few, if any, attempts on the goal during a night that was dominated by the Timbers. “
Some great observations and thoughts by Corey Cox and I’m hopeful that, on occasion, someone else might be willing to add some grist for folks to consider… if interested pop me a note in Facebook or through a twitter DM.

Curved Air – Well Wilmington did open in a Turtle shell and try to lock down the wings and center – after giving up two goals in the space of 20 minutes though their Head Coach appeared to change tactic by bringing on Arnoud for Parratt.  Bottom line #1 for Wilmington is that change didn’t alter the end result.

It did however present problems for the defense and with the substitution of Arnoud Wilmington played more aggressive.  For the remainder of the first half and the rest of the game they did try to go toe-to-toe with Portland.  Sadly for the Hammerheads that too ended with even more goals against.  Bottom line #2 for Wilmington was neither approach really worked in stopping Portland or Piquionne.

As for Portland it just didn’t matter; the run of play and aerial attacks from set-pieces were wicked good; they would lose long balls played from square one but both teams were pretty poor in that area.  However viewed the curved air that impacted this game came down to crosses – either from set pieces or that blinder provided by Harrington atop and just outside the 18 yard box.

Possession – While Portland controlled possession and pretty much locked up the end result by half time it wasn’t all smooth sailing in the back-four.

To be more precise Wilmington were actually more productive against Portland (overall) than either DC United, Chivas USA  or Houston.  Wilmington lagged those teams in time of possession but they did much better in converting goal scoring opportunities to shots taken and shots on goal.  Even more interesting is that Wilmington generated just as many shots on goal against Portland as Sporting KC did; and SKC have been the best attacking team Portland have faced this year.

Given this was a non-league side putting that many shots on goal there should remain concerns about the back-four — especially with three of them being regular starters of late…

As for Portland possession wasn’t an issue and certainly the conversion of those possessions into goals scored reached a pinnacle not seen for sometime (how long I’m not sure but five goals is a lot…)  For some great historical details suggest you read this article from Kip Kesgard.

Bottom line for me though it regardless of goal output this was not the best overall performance in team attacking this year… yes they got more goals but to put things in perspective Portland performed much better as a ‘team’ in their 2-2 draw with Colorado as well as their 3-2 win against SKC and their thrashing of Chivas a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure that makes sense to the purist who believes goals are the know-all, end-all in football matches but as a reminder (to date) the correlation between my PWP data points points in the MLS League Table (.7567) is far greater than the individual correlation between goals scored and points in the MLS League Table (.5288)…

Defense – Unfortunately for Wilmington not much of that went on last night… run of play down their right side exposed weaknesses in their upper midfield support and set-pieces absolutely destroyed them.

With respect to Portland – Hmmm…. not sure what to say here.

Three of the four regulars were playing last night and there still remain questions.  I’m not sure what Porter offered up to Baptiste and Futty at half-time but I am all for ‘praise in public and criticize in private’.  For me though I’m just not sure criticizing in private includes an open conversation (not heard – but seen) in the middle of an empty pitch at half-time.

Just a whole lot going on there and will leave well enough alone… I’m sure there’s at least one reporter who will try to get the skinny on that – for me; no interest.

Wild Things – Not much grist here; as noted in my match preview Parratt and Wallace lead their team in fouls and both got Yellow cards; maybe Parratt got pulled because of the Yellow instead of the change in tactical approach – hard to say but pulling a midfielder and putting in a striker usually means going from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2; some may have a different view.  As for the third Yellow; that went to #12  Shawn Nicklaw.

I’m not sure how others saw things but for me Shawn was perhaps??? the one player, for Wilmington, who looked like he belonged in the MLS.  I sensed he had the pace and body strength to match up in the early stages of this game.

That observation might be a wild flutter for some but for me he seemed more attuned to what was going on in the game than others I’ve seen in the Timbers reserves .  I didn’t get the impression Nicklaw was chasing the game until late on when Rincon came in and the match was already lost.

I did take some time to check Wikipedia tonight and it appears Shawn had some time playing with HB Koge (Danish Superliga) before signing with Wilmington in 2013.  Being 24 he is young and has room to learn.

Substitutes – We saw Sal Zizzo make his return to the pitch and for me I think he is struggling somewhat in this system with Caleb – the art of bombing down the pitch using his aggressive speed isn’t really a great match, in my view, for the style Caleb is working towards.  I did sense Sal working very hard to hang higher and work the ball with teammates above the 18.

As the minutes wound down though he did have opportunities open up a bit deeper where he could offer up a cross or two…  All told though Sal appears to be working hard to work this system and his unique skills down the wing provide Caleb skills he doesn’t really get elsewhere.

The flip side to that substitution was seeing Kalif slide into Darlington’s role.  Hard to tell how that was going to work out with Piquionne leaving about ten minutes later there wasn’t much time to work a chemistry between those two…

We also got to see McKenzie for the first time and while there weren’t many minutes played he did get a spell in right back which in turn gave Ryan Miller some time at left back.  Goodness all aroung in that move and the most important thing there was probably giving Harrington a bit of a rest.  Not really enough time on the pitch to offer any thoughts on McKenzie.

As for Nanchoff and Gangnes – Michael didn’t dress for the game – it appears he has a knock of some sort – he didn’t elaborate when I saw him prior to the game.  And with McKenzie in the squad Dylan will get his crucial playing time with the reserves as is appropriate.

In closing — In my match preview I offered up I was looking forward to a great game with lots of action – hard to imagine a game having greater action than one striker scoring four goals in one half… my hat is off to you Mr. Piquionne; brilliant …

Oh… did I forget to mention that that Team Up North got beat.

Next Up in the Cup = Tampa Bay – 12 June…

Next Up Match Preview Portland Timbers versus Chicago Fire…

You can follow me on Twitter @chrisgluckptfc




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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