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Match Preview – Portland Timbers vs Toronto FC

A game like this really can’t be described as being anything more than this… the Timbers need three points; Toronto is not a top of the table team and to drop points here would be worse than that gut-wrenching last minute draw (at home) against Real…

Here’s my match preview in an updated format… As always, the views and data analysis presented for your consideration are my own and my attempt will always remain to be provide a “So What” relative to the data.

  • Side note: Away teams this year (up to last weekend) have taken 231 Points while Home teams this year have taken 447 points… that pretty much means going in that a home team is likely to take 1 or 3 points about 67% of the time…

Passing Accuracy…

PASSING ACCURACY

PASSING ACCURACY

Clearly Portland are the better in this category and it is likely, even with injuries, they will be more accurate than Toronto in how well they pass from player to player across the length of the game…

It should be noted that the Timbers accuracy has fallen off a bit in the month of August… we should pretty much know why – injuries, suspensions and injuries…

Fatigue comes into play as well and it’s likely the bench will be built a bit stronger next year becuase of that.

With Valeri out it is likely we see Wallace rotate out right a bit more and perhaps Alhassan will venture more left… either player seems capable of penetrating either side – how much space Nagbe gets in the middle will be the challenge.

Passing Accuracy Final Third…

PASSING ACCURACY FINAL THIRD

PASSING ACCURACY FINAL THIRD

For Portland, this is where the rubber meets the road.

Do I need to state the obvious here that Toronto have simply not done a very good job in providing accurate passes inside or outside the Final Third…

How much pressure comes from within the middle will help drive who wins the midfield battle… will Portland run a two-pivot or one-pivot midfield?  My guess is it’ll be a two pivot and Alhassan and Wallace will really need to work hard to get behind the ball when Toronto have possession.

Shots Taken…

SHOTS TAKEN VS PASSING COMPLETIONS FINAL THIRD

SHOTS TAKEN VS PASSING COMPLETIONS FINAL THIRD

Here’s where it gets a bit interesting… Toronto exceeds Portland in generating shots taken from completed passes for every month (away) compared to Portland (home) but twice… March and June.

It should be expected that Toronto will look to create as many chances as they can… they don’t score very much on the road so a counterattacking style, like we have seen from New England and Montreal might be in the cards for the Timbers…

So while Toronto is less accurate with their passes they get more shots taken…  The same can be said for the MLS Average (the entire year) versus Portland…

But there is something to consider before drawing any more conclusions on this one…

Shots on Goal…

SHOTS ON GOAL VS SHOTS TAKEN

SHOTS ON GOAL VS SHOTS TAKEN

Given that both Toronto and the MLS Average exceed Portland in Shots taken versus completed passes there is only one instance where Toronto and the MLS Average exceed Portland in Shots on goal versus shots taken…

In other words Toronto and the MLS Average create more shots but Portland puts it’s fewer shots taken on target more.

One additional point to consider; Goals For…

GOALS FOR

GOALS FOR

Portland exceeds Toronto and the MLS Average in Goals For…   so even with generating fewer shots taken versus passes completed in the Final Third the Timbers are much more accurate in putting those fewer shots taken ‘on goal’ and those fewer shots taken ‘in goal’!

Possession with Purpose at its best!

I’d offer up some diagrams on my other new categories “Disposssession with Purpose across the entire pitch” and “Dispossession with Purpose in the Final Third” but that’s probably too much information for this match preview…

Instead – a couple of tidbits I think you should consider knowing that the data is available to substantiate these offerings…

  1. For three months straight Portland had clean sheets (April to June) at home; the wicked wounded warrior stretch is hopefully nearing conclusion – hopefully the last two months will see Portland return to the stingy defense that got them 6 points in April, 4 points in May and 6 points in June…
  2. To reinforce; although Possession with Purpose is the highest category that correlates to points in the league table the Goals Against correlation still exceeds .5000.
  3. Defensive activities by Portland, for the better part of this year, have exceeded Toronto as well as the MLS Average.
  4. For me that says quite a bit especially when considering that Portland is more active in the attacking final third than most other teams…
  5. So in other words Portland are more active in Defending their Final Third against the fewer passes their opponents offer while they are also more active in their attacking Final Third where their opponents offer less defensive activities.
  6. That translates to me as one thing… Portland are working harder to ‘get the ball’ when they don’t have the ball and are also working harder to maintain the ball when they have the ball…

Other thoughts…

  1. This is a great opportunity for Kocic to step up and in – in home games this year Portland has average over 1.5 and 1 goal against in August and July respectively while averaging nil in April, May and June…  Toronto don’t score many goals on the road but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to try…
  2. With right back in disarray due to injuries and suspensions and national call-ups it is likely we see Sal Zizzo get the head nod to replace Powell; this is another opportunity for a player to step up and show their value…
  3. Kah remains out on suspension according to every other writer in Portland and it would look to me that either McKenzie or Futty (if fully healed) can come in and do the job.
  4. Based upon this latest article from MLS it appears Kah is not suspended?
  5. As for seeing a 3-4-3 against Toronto. I was pretty surprised to see that against Real and while I’d like to see that approach get more pitch time I’m not sensing it will be anytime soon…
  6. This is a must win for Portland… they should win and I sense everyone expects them to win…
  7. Hopefully there won’t be any Referee bollocks…

In closing… Some thoughts on team versus individual statistics and their value relative to points in the league table…

  • Marco DiVaio is the current leader in Goals Scored across all of MLS; it should be noted that his team (Montreal) has Possession with Purpose in the Final Third as having the HIGHEST Correlation to Points in the League Table than any other team in MLS.
  • Only nine teams across all of the MLS have Goals Scored as having the HIGHEST Correlation to Points in the League Table and of those nine teams, Chivas USA, one of the worst teams in MLS (based upon Points) has the HIGHEST Correlation (.7992)…
  • While some may disagree with this view it is my initial submittal to you that who scores goals for what teams is not as important as what teams are the best at creating and setting the conditions for success in how those goals might be scored.
  • This is not to offer that goals scored has ‘no place’ – that’s folly – they do, there is simply so much more to this game than scoring goals and it’s that part of the game that gets managers hired and fired after seeing which ones are more or less successful in transferring their philosophy to the players and team as they strive to score goals.
  • One last thing… When looking at Chivas USA this year their Correlation of Possession with Purpose in the Final Third to Points in the League Table is .6277 vs Montreal’s (which is .6684) so it is “likely” that if Marco DiVaio played for Chivas he would score roughly the same amount of goals.
  • On the other hand, if Marco played for Philadelphia it is likely he would score fewer goals given the Union have just a .3002 Correlation between Possession with Purpose in the Final Third and Points in the League Table…
  • Bottom line here is that this team data appears to influence striker outputs and reinforces what I have offered up to others elsewhere who look to evaluate player statistics and ‘goal scoring’… versus Points in the League Table…
  • It is this sort of empirical data that reinforces to me that more statistical data should be made available to the normal fan to further increase the overall knowledge on what this game is about…

Next up Match Analysis… Timbers v Toronto.

 

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 PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.