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Portland moving on… next up LA Galaxy

The trail to the playoffs continue as Portland host one of the best overall teams in MLS this next weekend after a glorious (pure football lovers football match) 1-nil win against Colorado!

It’s not like this is a Lewis & Clarke expedition in the great Northwest where no-one has played soccer before but it is trail-blazing to some extent; last year the thought of the Playoffs was fantasy with a team that played disorganized and was pretty much run disorganized.

Times have changed and fingerprints ain’t what they used to be… now with just five games to go the Playoffs can be very much a reality but simply stated ; a one game at a time reality.

So from last weekend’s game forward what’s in store?  

From this point forward every game is pucker-time; every game will have nuance and intrigue with an edge to it.  The roar heard after that 2-1 win last time against LA will hopefully be even louder; can it be?  I don’t know but if/when Portland score that winning goal this weekend it oughta be…

So about the other night?

The starting 11 were electric, none more voltaic, voracious, valuable and volcanic than Valeri when the he chipped in that truly remarkable shot and the crowd erupted!  WOW!

If that wasn’t enough…

  • In all of the football I’ve watched this year I had yet to see what I could truly call a 4-2-4 (some call it a 4-6-0) with any team other than LA but Friday night Portland pulled it off.
  • It wasn’t pretty and Colorado were damn hard to break down but the goal was got and the 3 points were got…
  • In running that line-up this, for me, MARKS a huge line of trailblazing that I’m not even sure the Timbers supporters are going to be prepared for.
  • I don’t say this lightly; the game the other evening saw 6 players pretty much dominate the front half of the pitch; where a fullback is a no more than a 2nd (or even 3rd) option in the attack; a mere threat held in the back pocket to pull out only when needed.
  • This unused threat brings huge upside on the defending half of the pitch; no longer is there reason to ‘risk’ pushing a fullback forward and leaving three at the back to defend against a counter… it tightens the pucker point when the pucker point needs tightening… during the playoff race.

Even more dangerous for the opponent, when Portland gets the first goal, is how they handle the substitution scheme of things in the second half.

  • With Horst returning, full ninety minutes in the reserve match this weekend; plus AJ Baptiste, plus Powell, plus Zemanski, plus Ryan Johnson, plus Piquionne, plus Valencia, plus Alhassan and with a tested and healthy Zizzo, Caleb Porter will be absolutely spoiled for choices.
  • On the bench alone that is 16 goals and 17 assists worth of players!
  • So fresh legs abound with all of those players adding a different dimension to the attack or defense…
  • And if the opponent system warrants a slight tweak at the half Caleb has many options to work from.

So a wee bit about what I saw…  

  • I saw direct play, forward pressing play, short passing play, switches, overlaps and rotations in and around the 18 yard box from every single player; of course Chara didn’t rotate as much as Nagbe might have, but he did venture forward and rotate out right and left as Will Johnson did his thing.
  • I saw tough tackles, clean tackles and 2 Yellows unrelated to grist…
  • I saw a very tough and quick Colorado attack get stymied time and again…  on only one occasion did I see a direct threat to the back-four – the 37th minute where the Assistant Referee incorrectly called offside on a shot Buddle hit against the far post…
  • So with just six players (plus the two fullbacks on occasion) Porter was able to leverage every style of attack effectively.
  • Because of that it’s not just about having the flexibility to favor one side or the other (with the addition of Urutti into the squad and the return of Jewsbury to right back) it’s about the variation in effectively and efficiently moving the ball forward any bloody way they want to…

The other beauty of this new approach is how well it allows Porter to run a veteran, and slightly slower, back four – It’s defense first and a more solid back-four.

  • I’m not sure how well I can say this but precision and tried-and-true habits built at a young age just seem to come to light better (for veterans) during a playoff run.
  • And the more risk, more speed, needed in the back-four, is perhaps something better suited in the last twenty or so minutes of a game as opposed to the first 65 or 70.
  • Playoff time and this run up to the playoffs will simply require teams to play tighter and think even more about preventing the goal instead of (perhaps?) scoring the goal.
  • Aye… all the coaches will speak to pushing hard to get three points and rightly so – but it’s that ingrained attitude that I’m gonna work my arse off to get three points but I’ll be bloody gutted if we don’t get one…

In Closing:

  • All said and done a great game played by what I thought were two superbly matched teams that may see each other again this year.
  • I’ve seen Real three times and now I’ve seen Colorado three times… in my opinion Colorado are the stronger of those two teams…
  • Oddly enough I do believe Columbus have had their opponents receive 8 red cards this year at home… wow… is that odd or what?
  • The consistency of the Referee’s in MLS this year should be applauded; they have truly been consistent in their inconsistency and constant consistency of in-consistence within that inconsistency!

Next up Match Preview and some other thoughts on statistics collected so far this year and what they might offer…

 

 

 

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.