Match Analysis – Portland Timbers 1 v FC Dallas nil

Done and dusted…

Wow…  I had to re-watch this game again today after being so emotionally drained from yesterday.  Incredible game where there was simply no let up from either side; a TRUE marquee match-up for Portland Timbers, FC Dallas and MLS.

Some one-liners before getting into the grind…

Darlington Nagbe – nailed it!  Brilliant Cruyff turn just inside the box – pivots and nails the game winner – big game – big goal – MLS Goal of the week here we come!

Kalif Alhassan – Bedazzles and dazzles – no mucking about here Kalif looked engaged and tuned in not only to his own elite touches but to where his teammates were and how to support them – that light chip to Valeri was spectacular and if not for Fernandez making a stunning reactive save that would have been smashing!!!

Frederique Piquionne – At long last a true #9 rises to the surface for Portland!

Futty Danso – As noted by Adrian Healey – the great wall of Gambia; he might not have the pace that others do but his positional awareness is superb!

Will Johnson – Leadership – enuf said…

Jack Jewsbury and Michael Harrington – tough day with blinding speed on both wings; did well in their own rotation too!

Diego Valeri – vision and touches and grist as his defensive posture this game was just as critical as his ability to work inside.

Pa Modou Kah – Solid but a bit pushed both inside and outside; a wicked hard game with pace where he did well to manage space.

Diego Chara – alas… missing those two opportunities late on should not get in the way of everything he left on the pitch.

Mister Fantistic (Donovan Ricketts) – With the popularity of football in soccer city USA that lazarus save should get him another MLS Save of the week!

To the grind…

JELD-WEN – Can’t imagine a better stadium in this country to showcase two top MLS teams grinding out a superb performance in spite of the pretty poor Refereeing.  As I have noted before if MLS wants to get to the world stage of Football the MLS Referee’s need to be able to match the intensity on making the right calls at the right time – too many omission type calls in my view but the most glaring was the head butt by Benitez…  enuf said.

Weather – a great day of footy – perfect weather with a perfect crowd…

Standings – As most should know by now Portland close the gap by three points; I won’t go so far as to say it was a convincing win because I don’t think it was.  And perhaps rightly so – if Diego does score those two goals the score-line might have read 3-nil.  That might have made for a bigger splash in an MLS headline but it would have over-looked how tough this game really was.

I like hyperbole and hype, but for me Portland simply got done what needed to get done in workmanlike fashion – and a 1-nil scoreline better represents that workmanlike effort than perhaps a glitzy 3-nil headline.

Goals Scored – One… chances taken 37… with Dallas having the edge by one.  Shots on goal 15 – with Portland having the edge by one… Bottom line here is this game was end-to-end, in-your-face, full-on, full-tilt, full-speed football…  What kept this game from being 6-5 were the goal keepers.

It would be rude not to offer up kudo’s to Fernandez for his stellar saves and if Dallas had half the support that Portland has it’s likely that Fernandez could win MLS Save of the Week; as a footy fan it was simply remarkable at how well Ricketts and Fernandez managed between the pipes this game!

Curved Air – The grist on where the grind of this game begins…

As appropriate both teams looked to get the ball forward through the air – the loss of Cooper, given a family emergency at home, didn’t help matters for Dallas and with Hassli going off at the 7 minute mark (hip issue) the lack of a traditional target player for Dallas changed things a bit.

In the first half Hyndman opted for Castillo up top and in the second half Jackson rotated up there.  Neither move got Hyndman the result he wanted but the overall approach in penetrating did change from one half to the other.

And while Twellman seemed to indicate that the swap between Harrington and Jewsbury to start the game had more to do with having Harrington on that side to keep Castillo honest I think it had more to do with Porter not guessing right on which side Jackson would start on.  And with the substitution of Watson for Hassli Porter may? have taken that opportunity to get the real match-up he wanted to begin with — Harrington vs Jackson.

To make a swap immediately upon seeing Jackson open up on the right might have given away too much to Hyndman on what Porter’s real approach was… others may have a different view but it’s the next bit of info that has me leaning that way.

In the first half 1/2 of the Dallas goal scoring opportunities were generated down their right – our left (Jackson); while in the second half Hyndman seemed to gear his team towards generating chances down the middle (Jackson).  Of their 21 chances created in the 2nd half 52% of them came down the middle.

I think it is fair to say that the primary target player for Dallas in this match was Jackson and a much better 1-v-1 scenario for Portland should have Harrington matching up against Jackson – not Jewsbury with Harrington marking a lower performing and threatening Castillo.  If anyone is going to keep Jackson at bay it’s the faster and more dangerous overlapping threat provided by Harrington.

So while the primary threat changed from Castillo to Jackson this game (Jackson was suspended in the first game) the approach by Hyndman remained the same – primarily target one player and one area…

The same can’t be said for Porter – as usual there was rigid flexibility in where Portland looked to penetrate as well as create goal scoring opportunities.  In both PA3 and GSO neither wing nor the middle penetration fell below 25% and the creativity of chances was 28%, 30% and 32%…  And as usual part of that variation in penetration also got its foothold from the rotations between Valeri, Nagbe and Alhassan.

As for crosses – neither team favored one side or the other – each exceeded 20 in total and each were evenly split between both sides.

With respect to balls from Square 1; as anticipated Dallas played almost twice as many balls long as they did short.  Portland ended up about 2/5’s short and 3/5’s long.  A takeaway here probably goes back to how Dallas tends to behave when on the road; they did as expected.

Perhaps? an intriguing part in this game was the distance maintained from back-four to forward.  As Dallas ran the game their front and back players seemed to play within a 30 yard box while Portland, who looked to have more depth, were spread out a bit more – by as much as 50 yards.

This greater separation had Portland pressing higher and closing down Dallas quicker; consequently the freedom to move the ball forward wasn’t there as much for Dallas as it was Portland – hence the disparity in curved air out of square 1.

I’m not sure we see Dallas playing that close together next game as it didn’t seem to stop the chances created by Portland; if anything Portland were move productive this game than there were in Frisco.

Penetrations – In 15 minute increments – Game one first and then game two (yesterday)



Game two below…



A considerable contrast between game 1 in Frisco and game 2 in Portland.

In detail Portland had just 4 more minutes of possession at home yet they increased their number of penetrations and goal scoring opportunities by ten each – resulting in four more shots on goal.

On the other hand Dallas had four less minutes of possession and created 20 fewer goal scoring opportunities even though they had 2 more shots on goal.

Better defending or poorer execution? Hard to say – I sense it is down to Ricketts and Fernandez more than anything else…

Possession – I would offer that the overall possession, in terms of minutes, didn’t have a significant impact on the outcome of this game… what was needed was a moment of brilliance with staunch defending when set-pieces came up.

This time around (compared to the game in Chicago) Portland conceded 6 fouls (3 in the defending third) in the second half – so less chances offered gave Dallas less chance to equalize.  Actual minutes on the ball did play some part in the second half but I don’t recall extended passing sequences – maybe a few over 10 but under 15 but more often than not the second half was an end-to-end battle of counterattacking more than anything else.

Defense – Bottom line = Clean sheet.

I continue to believe the most valuable player on this team is Donovan (Mister Fantastic) Ricketts.

His awareness and quick reactions probably saved 4 goals yesterday.  That’s not to say Portland couldn’t have netted 4 or 5 either, as Fernandez was, in my view, their best player yesterday.

As to how things play out in this next match (Wednesday against LA) is unclear given that Futty went off with a (potential?) hamstring issue.  In watching him leave the pitch it didn’t appear he was limping so (perhaps?) that move was more precautionary than anything else.

Maybe we will find out more detail come Tuesday as Monday is probably a day or rest…

For Dallas it appears that this is the first time their ‘usual back-four’ have collectively been beaten.  How much that concerns Hyndman is unclear but without looking to far ahead I’m sure both he and Porter have plenty to think about when they next meet in Frisco on the 26th.

And yes… Kah was bloody lucky Donovan Ricketts was switched on as he fumbled that early ball under pressure by Ferreira.  Otherwise the back-four were good, not superb – not great but good enough to help Ricketts manage the pipes and slow down the Dallas attack…

Wild Things – Through all the grind and energy this game it was good to see that only Diego garnered a Yellow card for Portland.  Villarreal, as poorly as he managed this game, could have issued any number of Yellows with that glaring headbutt by Benitez being the stunner.

Editorial — In the many matches I’ve watched in my time there aren’t many that appear to be as one-sided as this one.  It should be standard for MLS to follow up on this game and provide Villarreal some “direct” feedback.

Substitutions – Zemanski didn’t start today and that was a frugal move.  I like the idea of seeing Zemanski come on as a late game defensive substitution and if he starts that depth to bring on another late game midfield substitution isn’t there yet; others may have a different view but the attacking Alhassan is better to start than the defending Zemanski.

And if Portland has a one goal lead with Alhassan on the bench is it reasonable to believe Porter would leverage Kalif as a defensive sub… not likely…

Ryan Johnson got a look in to spell Piquionne and while not like-for-like the roles they both play are somewhat similar.  Good to see Ryan and Donovan both back from international duty.  I’m not sure when Rodney returns so will check into that for my match preview.

I think the tough call for Porter will be who doesn’t get the call as a substitute when Rodney Wallace returns.  Note also that Sal Zizzo was not on the subs bench yesterday – Nanchoff got the head nod and a worthy one given his performance in the cup match Wednesday evening…

With Hassli going off early the intent to make tactical changes with different players didn’t manifest itself with Dallas and that might speak to a weakness with that team???

They had Keel, Woodberry, Zimmerman and Warshaw on the bench but apparently none of them were worth calling on to add some offensive juice to the game.  For me that translates to Hyndman not having the same type of depth that Porter has with his team – perhaps others have some different thoughts on that???

In closing



The latest update on Possession with Purpose relative to points in the league table…

Bottom line here is the relationship between overall Possession with Purpose  (data points for possession, penetration, creating goal scoring opportunities, shots taken, shots on goal, and goals scored) versus Points in the League Table (.7685) remains stronger than the individual relationship of goals scored to points in the league table (.4964).

In checking this game out compared to the game in Frisco (FCD1) it’s pretty clear that Dallas were more successful in their overall attack (that game) than Portland.  The same can’t be said this game.

As for Portland, they were more productive this game in attack and more effective in defending… as just reward Portland walked away with three points.

Another contrast is the most recent game against Chicago (CFFC).

If you recall Portland conceded 8 free kicks to Chicago in the final 30 minutes while in this game the Timbers only conceded 3 free kicks.  That is five extra ‘free’ goal scoring opportunities that Chicago had that Dallas didn’t have.

And given the pedigree Dallas have of scoring goals on set-pieces (10 of them this year) it is likely the fewer free kicks had good influence in determining the 3 point outcome for Portland this game.

All for now – my next up will be the match preview for the game against LA Galaxy Wednesday evening; you can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckptfc

PS:  Lest I forget – for those counting – that is 13 unbeaten in a row…



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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