Match Analysis – Portland Timbers (nil) – Columbus Crew (1)

It’s been a long time since I’ve offered up an analysis on a game that went pear-shaped for Portland and I’m not going to like offering up this one just like I didn’t like offering up the one against Montreal.

With that said there is no need, in my view, to belabor the point – if you watched the game you know the scoreline and, decisions in the heat of the moment, at anytime, in any game, can directly influence the outcome.  In this game that occurred, and try as they might, Portland could not get past that moment of heat.

Nevertheless there are always things to offer up outside of the unique, 10-man scenario, that hampered Portland.

So without further mucking about my routine walk-through on this match…  and no I won’t harp on the fouls just yet…

Stadium – 15051 people turned their 30102 sweaty eyes on this match for 90 plus minutes.  It was great to see ROOT pan through the Timbers Army and the Akron Zips fans who made the trip in support of the Timbers – a special shout-out would have been appropriate but I didn’t hear one so perhaps I missed it…

As for the pitch; I wasn’t there but perhaps others could offer feedback; for me it looked sticky and lumpy and probably made it hard to get clean – short passes the full 90 minutes?

I think that is four away games on the trot now, Toyota Park, STUBHUB, Frisco?, and Crew Stadium where the opponents have offered up a pitch that plays different to what JELD-WEN offers… perhaps the training sessions at the Adidas Training facility don’t get the pitch watered as the Timbers prepare for away games on real grass surfaces???

Weather – Like the early red card the heat and humidity played it’s toll on Portland and when the final whistle blew you could see every player was completely gassed and had given it their all… a tough road loss in tough conditions with a tough break before 15 minutes were gone.  I’m sure the Timbers players will welcome a return to Portland as they prepare for LA Galaxy in the superb atmosphere of JELD-WEN.

Standings – No significant changes in the Standings, some teams have games in hand – some don’t; the pattern remains unchanged.  Play one game at a time; minimize the impacts from highs and lows while learning from the past whether a win, draw or loss…

As for the streak – well streaks always come to an end…   

Formation – You can call it a Diamond 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 or whatever else comes to mind; basically Warzycha stuffed the middle of the pitch and worked hard to have his players disrupt as much as possible as often as possible.  What was amazing to me is how much Portland really did control this game, even with 10 men.

Warzycha did not abandon his formation/system, even when Portland went down to 10 men, and that is a credit to Portland and how much other teams respect their style and discipline…

Portland – no real change until the Red Card where Kalif Alhassan was pulled, rightly so, in favor of Futty Danso…  quite impressive how well Futty stepped in ‘again’ and did what was needed!  In case you missed it Futty did roll up top, late on, to run in a two striker formation (more later on that)…

In considering the formation; it didn’t look like there was great communication yesterday and the red-card may have impacted the chemistry more than the physical play of the players… not sure if that sounds convincing or not but I sense, to some degree, that another #9 is needed (or perhaps a diminutive striker) as well as another box-to-box midfielder now that another right fullback has been added.

Might we see Caleb offer up a 4-6-0 sometime in the near future to mix things up a bit???  If a #9 cannot win headers on a regular basis, as part of a direct attack scheme, then is another approach needed to work that angle?

Goals Scored – Set Pieces win games and that header by Anor opened and closed the scoring at the 4 minute mark.  As for Portland, it’s amazing that with all those other things going on, the pitch, the weather and the red card, they were still able to muster an attack.

On a cooler day, perhaps 20 minutes earlier in the match, when the lactic acid and drain on the body is less, Valeri or Baptiste probably put those shots in goal… alas, not this game but all said and done these guys simply did not give up!

Curved Air – A rehash of what was offered in the match preview and how things played out…





Like the game Columbus played against DC United, and to some extent the game against Montreal, they had limited reliance on crosses and pretty much parked their back-four behind the midfield line and looked to push down the middle… (42% of their penetrations into the defending third of Portland came down the middle while 54% of their GSO’s also came from the middle.

It’s important to note that their focus down the middle did not impact their bottom line and Portland handled that tack as well as they handled the wings… so even when a man up Columbus just couldn’t score another goal…

Overall it seems there is a pattern forming on how they attack when they win; perhaps others have a different view?

Goal Kicks:




When they win a game they are more likely to play the ball from Square one (LONG) regardless of the scoreline… this approach has now been effective against DC United, Montreal and Portland – perhaps other teams will see value in this?

Law of Averages:




If you recall I offered this diagram up as an initial estimate to check on estimating Goal Scoring Opportunities for Opponents based upon other data points while also looking to see what patterns emerged in games Columbus won, drew or lost at home.

The estimate on how many GSO’s Columbus might generate in a winning scenario were basically on-target, the green bars are the actual data and the light blue bars represent the Average Wins data tracked previously with the estimated GSO.

Note also the actual data on Time of Possession (TOP) as well as Defensive Clearances and Shots on Goal.  In my data collected, to date, this overall pattern again seems to confirm that outputs like this tend to indicate a team may be playing a counterattacking style.

That’s two games now where some predictive analysis has had some meaning – how much value and benefit yet I don’t know; I would welcome some feedback from anyone if thoughts come to mind…

Possession – Here’s my traditional diagram showing the breakout of penetrations and goal scoring opportunities for both teams in 15 minute increments…



I think it should be noted here that in the first 15 minutes of play Columbus had four GSO’s; all four were dead-ball situations and Columbus didn’t create their first goal scoring opportunity, through the run of play, until around the 16 minute mark.  And out of the first 30 minutes played Columbus only created two total GSO’s from the run of play.

As for Portland there were periods of rest and periods of higher intensity but alas, we already know, they didn’t find the net.

With respect to the overall possession with purpose data on Columbus for home games this year…



The outputs for all their wins (green bars) look strikingly alike for the standard data points with the one exception of shots taken.  If Warzycha had a game plan to mirror those games against DC United and Montreal he hit it to perfection — if indeed this data has value?



For Portland; this is their first away loss so there isn’t much to work from other than they may have been a bit hurried in trying to get that equalizer at times but you can’t fault a team from trying to claw one back when down a player.

For now this one is best kept as an outlier given about 90% of the game was played a man down…

Before moving on to Defense my featured image…



While some might not value this diagram a whole lot when Portland loses it does show an interesting contrast; even with being a man down Portland still generated a more efficient attack than they did in that away match to San Jose.

All told there have been five away matches that have been tough on Portland in generating an attack; this one, the game against LA, the ten man comeback against Vancouver, the first match against Dallas, and the draw against San Jose.

For me this reinforces just how hard it is to win on the road – Portland have done well this year and remain dangerous, even with 10 men.  I’m sure Caleb doesn’t want to find this team in that situation again…

Defense – I’ve already touched on how effective the Columbus defense was in closing down the middle of the pitch; and even when Portland went a man down Warzycha’s approach did not change… pack the middle and counter…

Hard to offer up anything negative about the Timbers defense after 11 minutes had passed; even with a man down they held Columbus scoreless which meant Portland still had a shout at drawing this game.

All told Columbus had higher attacking numbers than the average opponent for Portland this year.  Considering that Portland shut down Columbus from the 11th minute on, while being a man down, there could (just could???) be an opportunity for Portland to run a slightly different formation (4-4-2) against a counterattacking team.

In other words instead of working off one target striker Portland could consider working off two target strikers… meaning that since the defense held with one less player that means when going to attack that one less player now becomes that extra striker up top to pull the midfield back a bit more…  perhaps others have some thoughts on that offering?

Wild Things – Not last and definitely not the least impact either…



As noted in my match preview – “this game will be chippy and Columbus will do their best to disrupt and delay the Portland attack”… To true; as noted in the diagram Columbus conceded more fouls this game than any home game this year (PTFC purple and orange bar).

That same pattern again where Columbus tactics took the shape of game outputs where they had won in the past…

It’s not as simple as that but it is compelling and can perhaps point out statistics that have value versus some others that don’t…

Bottom line here is that Columbus got better at getting worse…

Red Card – The first time a red card has been issued this early in the game for Portland and only the second one all year.  The fewer of these the better!

It should be noted that Pa Modou Kah has 3 Yellows in 6 games to date.  Over the course of a 34 match season that could be as many as 15-17 Yellows; a pace far greater than Diego Chara from last year.

As of now, Pa Modou Kah has had a ‘time waster’ at the 64′ minute mark against DC United, one at the 7′ mark vs LA Galaxy in the defensive third, and then these two, one at the 6′ mark and the second infringement (straight red card) at the 11′ mark.

I won’t go so far as to say there is a trend but back-four fouls are the worst and represent the greatest risk to a team versus those committed in the midfield; and with Pa Madou Kah being a center-back that could be a serious issue as this season continues.

Bottom line here – like the game against Chicago (many late fouls in the second half) poor positional play that leads to fouls will change a game in a heart-beat…  and to reinforce this point it should be noted again that the first four (and only) goal scoring opportunities generated by Columbus in the first 15 minutes came from set-pieces; 3 of them resulting from fouls.

Substitutions – Warzycha did a smart move in the second half; he replaced the two guys who had Yellow cards with two more guys who could help them reload and continue the method of disruption; the first thing Warzycha is probably thinking as the second half starts is he doesn’t want to see one of his Yellow card guys get another one and make it 10-v-10…  nice move.

With respect to Caleb Porter and Portland – no choice really in pulling Kalif and replacing him with Futty Danso.  Again Futty had a brilliant game and we even saw him push forward late on to present a two-striker target for Ricketts on the goal kicks…

As far as second half substitutions go; bringing on Valencia and Nanchoff were again good moves, in my view, by Caleb.  Ryan Johnson was ineffective in the air and had limited time holding the ball up given Columbus had an extra player in the midfield area.

Valencia did add pace and more athletic type nuance than Johnson – his hard work paid off when sliding that lovely ball to Valeri – 90% of the time that ball goes into the back of the net but to probably give it a bit of juice (being tired) Diego leaned back a wee bit – as a result it flew just over the cross bar.

With bringing on Nanchoff Porter added that additional set-piece danger as well as some added grist going forward.  On another day, perhaps sometime later this year, it’s Nanchoff we see who gets the head nod to start as opposed to Kalif or… it’s Nanchoff who comes on and replaces Ryan Johnson if Piquionne isn’t available?

Timbers Army – As noted earlier I did get to see the Army twice and you could faintly hear some chanting in the background – it’s disappointing that ROOT can’t take some extra minutes or two to pan over the Army while they are in full voice… If you’re going to televise these games ROOT then it’s almost rude not to offer up some small amount of air time to a Timbers Army chant…

In Closing – Columbus did not win this game playing pretty football; no huge awe-striking moments for passes or through balls; they were pretty much disjointed and disorganized throughout the game with one – just one pattern of consistency… disrupt.  Whoever indicated that Columbus were a team of possession is nuts…

Nevertheless; consistency of purpose is critical and there was a lack of consistency, early on, in defending with appropriate positional awareness… with 90 minutes in a game perhaps Portland look to possess with the intent to possess as an early option the next go-round – hard to say but I trust Caleb has a pad full of notes that are takeaways and learning points from that game.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckptfc  and new members to the new Possession with Purpose Facebook Group are always welcome…
Next up a Match Analysis of the Gold Cup game between the USA and Belize…

My favs from the last game I saw included Holden, Beas, Donovan, Gomez – in viewing what I have seen from AJ Baptiste this year I would certainly offer up that he could have gotten a look-in to work as a center-back for Jurgen this year… he certainly has more grit and grist than Goodson…


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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