It’s not just a “friendly”; this game carries significant weight for the starting 11 as this season continues to progress.
Some familiar faces should get the head nod to start but more importantly there will be others getting a “look-in” that have worked very hard but haven’t had as many minutes to get better in real time this year.
So while we might view this as a ‘friendly’ it has value and benefit to the players getting the start and the coaching staff as they look to strengthen the 18 as this season pushes on.
With that here’s my traditional items of interest that (may?) influence the outcome of this game.
Stadium – JELD-WEN – I’m not sure we see a sellout crowd for this game but rumor has it a good contingent of Morelia supporters may be present in addition to the ever present and superbly vocal Timbers Army of supporters!
So how might JELD-WEN match up for a venue compared to Estadio Morelos in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico? The pitch surface in their Estadio is grass and the size measures 110 x 70 meters; for us that equates to 120 yards by 76 yards; so JELD-WEN will be considerably shorter (by roughly 10 yards) and a bit more narrow (by as much as 6 yards).
Unclear how that impacts Morelia but with it being a friendly the shorter and more narrow pitch may suit their players given the time of year for them. With respect to Portland it’s home and with the pitch being sprayed with water before the game it should have a good surface to work the ground passing game.
Weather – some respite from the heat doesn’t look to be happening; it’s expected to be 84 degrees tomorrow; that said kickoff is 8 PM so it might not be that high but if the humidity hangs around it could feel that hot after 15 minutes of play…
Standings – No impact for Portland, with this being a friendly, but it does remain a great opportunity for some players that haven’t seen as many minutes this year to stretch their legs and work to execute a game plan developed by Caleb Porter. All good their and with a tough away schedule the full 18 will need to be available given certain game conditions.
Formation – The bog-standard 4-3-3 tomorrow night is a good bet; with these guys probably getting the head nod to start… Alhassan, Valenicia and Rincon up top with Zemanski, Evans and Nanchoff holding the middle while Zizzo, McKenzie, Futty and Miller round out the back four.
Most likely a few Academy players are on the bench as well as maybe a few of, regular, first 11 guys.
Kocic should be in goal with Meves the likely back-up.
Goals Scored – For Portland there will be plenty of pace and movement within and around the attacking half of the pitch with poking and prodding down one wing or the other depending upon space that is available when pushing forward. Given the continued “rigid flexibility” anyone in the front six might have an opportunity to take a shot on goal. If set-pieces come into play Futty is a likely target for those given his height and jumping ability.
How the attack will unfolds for Morelia is unclear. There are a couple of areas to watch for Morelia; down the wings and whether or not their fullbacks overlap or down the middle with short, quick passes. I’m not sure if Morelia is a possession based side or one that looks to push for more direct play.
If direct in nature switches and long balls from behind the midfield line could give some idea on their habits. And with this being the first Liga side I have watched it will be intriguing to see how the pass and move and what rotations, if any, they work from.
Curved Air – With this being a friendly it’s a reasonable bet that Porter will look to push down one wing or the other as well as offer up long balls from the back-four to test the Morelia Center-backs. If Morelia sag back we might see more crossing from on high or deeper switches going left to right or vice versa.
However this plays out it’s a unique opponent and I’d submit that how well Portland execute will have as much to do with the on-field chemistry as the individual players executing their roles in the game plan as they combine to create chances.
With that said Kocic will probably take what Morelia give him (playing short or long) but their may be times where Portland simply look to go long as a way to practice some direct play.
As for Morelia, they too will probably take what Portland offers (play long or short) but given this is a friendly they may also look to push the pace at times to stretch their legs and test their own guys.
Possession – Caleb Porter makes no secret his game is about possession and the two kinds of possession that the team can offer up.
There is possession with the intent to penetrate and create chances and then there is possession with the intent to possess and keep the opponent off the ball. I would imagine there will be both forms of possession this game the when though might depend on the scoreline or time left in the match.
Overall, I think and feel this is a great opportunity for Valencia, Rincon, Evans and Nanchoff to get some heavy minutes and practice linking up with Zemanski and Alhassan while looking to weave in either Zizzo or Miller on a wing.
Defense – The back four, plus midfield, will work hard to minimize penetration, and for this game, I’d venture to offer they might press a bit higher to test the Morelia metal on the ball. Once the ‘feeling out’ takes place some adjustments will probably be made to tweak on field tactics. Perhaps Morelia will take the same approach???
Most likely Futty has the lead role in the back-four while Miller and Zizzo will look to delay outside penetration and gain support from the midfield getting behind the ball.
Wild Things – I don’t think we will see a rough game given it’s a friendly but I also wouldn’t expect either team allow players to just stroll in and take a shot on goal… In other words there might be a Yellow to stop a break on goal but I’d be surprised to see a red card.
Substitutes – The bench should be a mixed group with 2-3 regulars and then perhaps 3-4 Academy players who could benefit from some time against top quality players from Morelia. It’s not clear how many subs will be available for Morelia but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sub out 6 or more players to start the second half.
In Closing – It’s a friendly but it’s also a learning opportunity – no mucking about here; there are a number of guys who are really looking to secure their role as the second half of the season begins in Columbus this Sunday.
As for the arrival of Alvas Powell; his Visa has yet to be secured so will be waiting a wee bit longer. By most accounts he’s a right full-back and from what I hear he’s the player who replaced Lovell Palmer, in that role, with the Jamaican National team. Are more summer transfer activities underway? Who knows, should be an exciting game and great chance for some players to showcase their team skills against the quality side of Morelia…
Next up mini-match analysis Portland Timbers vs Monarcas Morelia.