Lots of history between these two teams and none better to offer than this latest Derby match-up between what are now two very prolific teams in ALL of MLS.

I’m not here to offer up a prediction on who wins or loses; instead I’ll offer up some statistics that may or may not provide a compelling reason for others to think one way or the other before kick-off.

To begin…

You know the various categories and Indices I’ve developed this year; if not you can review them here

For Seattle the Top 4 categories/indices that had the most relevance to them taking points in the league table were:

  1. Possession with Purpose Final Third (.7084) {the closer to 1 the stronger the correlation}
  2. Goals Scored (.7022)
  3. Goals Against (-.6222)
  4. Dispossession with Purpose Final Third (.5903)

For Portland the Top 4 categories/indices were:

  1. Goals Against (-.5918)
  2. Possession with Purpose Final Third (.5322)
  3. Dispossession with Purpose Final Third (.5315)
  4. Dispossession with Purpose Entire Pitch (.4356)


Seattle has two indicators that have much stronger correlations to taking points in the league table compared to Portland; PWP in the Final Third and Goals Scored.  While some may view a high correlation like that as a strength I don’t disagree but I can also see that as a weakness.

Why?  Well the stronger the correlation some categories have the greater the ability of the opponent to concentrate on ways to shut those strengths down.

In other words it (may?) be easier to see what they need to do to minimize the opponent in order to get a win or draw.

In this case it’s minimize goals and overall possession, by Seattle, in the Final Third.  While that might appear a bit obvious it does seem to indicate that when Seattle doesn’t score many goals they don’t get draws – they lose.  The same cannot be said for Portland – even when they might not score many goals their tendency is to at least get a draw.

In a home and away leg, aggregate competition, that type of history may have value in helping determine what tactical approaches a team takes in game 1…

So with Portland…

Two of the four strengths for Portland this year have been Dispossession with Purpose across the Entire Pitch as well as DWP within their defending Final Third.  The same can’t be said for Seattle… in other words, again, when Seattle yield goals they are likely to lose.

And even more compelling is the one primary statistic that is missing from Portland’s top 4 – “Goals Scored”.  This category ranks 5th out of six categories measured and speaks to how well Portland can garner points without having to rely on large numbers of goals.

The so-what…

For me, that means, the more pressure Portland applies in both areas of the pitch the more likely they will win or draw.

Second to that is their ability to score goals, from a large number of players.

Most should know that Portland have five players who have scored 7 or more goals this year… even more interesting is the distribution of those goals relative to where these players tend to find themselves on the pitch.

When working inside the box Ryan Johnson can score goals from crosses coming in from the right or left; Wallace usually pops his in from the left; while Diego Valeri and Will Johnson pop theirs in from the middle and Nagbe follows from the right – balance and flexibility – in other words danger from all sides of the 18 yard box.

The same simply cannot be said for Seattle.  Their primary goal scorers have been their strikers Johnson (9), Neagle (8) and Martins (8) with small support by Evans and Rosales (both with 4).

For me what this speaks to are crosses (wing and aerial attacks) with some pressure arriving down the middle or second chances resulting from wing play.

While not beating a dead horse it becomes an easier game to defend if the opponent is consistent in the type of attacking pressure they like to apply.

The twist of late for Seattle has been the insertion of Dempsey as an attacking midfielder.  The Timbers have faced other teams with this approach so the adjustments should be pretty normal; especially with both Diego Chara and Will Johnson being fully fit unlike that short swoon in late June early July.

Bottom line at the bottom…

It is likely this game won’t be pretty; how the players manage their individual behavior on the pitch will be absolutely critical.

Johnson and Neagle already have one yellow each – neither will want another one or they miss the game at JELDWEN.

Conversely – if things don’t go well for Seattle, in game one, maybe we see one of those guys take a Yellow on purpose to try and instigate a Timbers player getting a yellow or red card.

All said and done the habits of rotations and flexibility in penetrating have been etched in stone for both teams throughout the regular season; styles differ as Seattle should look to play more direct and down the wings while Portland will take advantage of gaps regardless of where they are.

It’s hard to split a guy like Alonso up across the entire pitch – the Timbers chances increase if they can switch the ball quickly from left to right or vice-versa.

The more time Seattle have to adjust their back four (with) Alonso the more likely they will be in stopping the Timbers flexibility in attack.

With Dempsey running as an attacking midfielder this may push Seattle in a bit on the wings; and with Yedlin injured (not sure if he dresses for the game or not) – this might push Seattle in even more – if that occurs Harrington might have more space in this game than he is used to so perhaps we see a cross or two from Michael?

However it goes me and missus will be glued to the telly.

Next up my post match thoughts…



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.

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