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About last night… 2-1 Timbers defeat Sounders

Timbers score two goals and defeat Seattle 2-1 in the first leg of their Playoff match.  

In that game Portland did something they haven’t been able to do all season and it wasn’t just about winning at Century Link Field.

Throughout the course of this season the Timbers have been known as a possession based team who looks to dominate/control the run of play as a way to increase opportunities to create chances and score goals.

Last night they didn’t; for only the second time this year Portland garnered less than 41% of the possession; the other game a 4-2 loss against RSL in August.

If you recall, that loss against RSL was when Caleb tried the 3-6-1 approach; quite obviously he changed things up.  In essence he appears to have taken the same tactical approach but ran that system leveraging his (by now) bog-standard 4-3-3.

With success in this approach Porter has added an even more devious dimension to this team.

To put that in perspective…

The best non-playoff team executing that type of tactical approach this year was Vancouver; who won 3 times on the road yielding significant possession against DC United, Montreal and New York.  Why was Rennie sacked?  FC Dallas would be silly not to pick that guy up…

As for the playoffs New York, who won the Supporters Shield also took nine points; six against Houston and three against Sporting KC.

For other playoff teams New England took this approach against Columbus and it’s likely they will take that same approach as they look to advance past SKC later this week.

Seattle accomplished it once against Columbus, LA once against Real, Houston once against LA, and Sporting KC once against Columbus.

If Seattle try this approach this Thursday it is likely Porter and his staff will have a counter…

If you were looking for a victim of this approach this year it would be Columbus and DC United; both those teams didn’t make the playoffs and both those teams dropped nine points to other teams who specifically took steps to yield possession.

Finishing thoughts…

It’s a high hurdle to cross recognizing that a team may need to yield possession in order to win; patience, training and trust should probably play big roles in working an approach like this.

All told last night that was a brilliant game with superb individual execution across the entire pitch; what a great game to watch!

In closing I’d offer that Porter and his staff took advantage of the Seattle Sounders home field advantage!

With my first thoughts offered here is the complete quote run released by the Portland Timbers at 12:24 AM last night covering thoughts by  Caleb Porter, Jack Jewsbury, Ryan Johnson, Sigi Schmid, Clint Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso.

MLS Cup Playoffs | Quotes: Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders FC

Portland Timbers Quotes

Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
On the game;
“At the end of the day, we got the win, deserved the win, took our chances well, thought we defended well. They had a little bit more of the ball, but that was a part of the game plan we had. We wanted them to have a bit of the ball so we could roast them on counter-attacks, and I thought we were very dangerous on the counter all day long and I thought we were organized. They didn’t have very many clear looks outside of balls dumped in, long throw-ins and set-pieces. Obviously they got the goal on the long throw-in at the end, but for us to stop that team on the road with the talent they have and the freedom they’re given to float around, they didn’t get a goal from the run of play, so I think that’s a real positive that we defended so well against them. Again, they had some shots from distance. They didn’t have a ton of great looks where they got in behind us, so I thought we were very organized and played a very pragmatic game plan and it’s a win on the road.”

On Portland’s defense:
“They’ve been great. The last nine games now, they’ve been very tight, very organized. We haven’t given up many goals; I think we’ve had six clean sheets. In the playoffs, you have to defend well and we’re defending well and we’re finding goals also. Ryan Johnson comes in, hasn’t highlighted as much recently and we called his name, put him in, he scored us a goal and worked very hard today. Obviously [Darlington] Nagbe showed what he’s capable of, so we have different guys at different times that step up. We’ve done that all season long. I never know who’s going to score, but I know there’s someone that’s going to score because we’re a team that plays together. We defend as a team, we attack as a team. I thought today, the result was reflective of that.”

On the physicality of the match:
“That’s soccer. There’s going to be physicality in a high-level soccer game. I’ve never seen a high-level soccer game where it wasn’t somewhat physical. You’ve got two good teams – teams that don’t want to lose – our team refuses to lose, and Seattle’s in our way right now. We want to move on in this tournament and Seattle’s a team that we drew and we’re one step away. We’ve got to obviously have a good performance next game – Thursday at home – but they’ve got to come in our home field and get a piece of us in order to get through, and I like our chances. Obviously we have to play as well as we did this game. We have to be as hungry. We have to fight as hard. We have to be as organized. But we can play better and I know we will play even better at home.”

On the goal conceded:
“If you go into the game on the road you want to win if you can, you hope even maybe to get a draw, so again that puts us in the driver’s seat coming back at home, and now we’re at home and we’re in a great position. And if we win the game at home, then we’re through. Simple.”

On his decision to start Ryan Johnson:
“We’ve got options up there, good options. Like I’ve said all along, we’re going to pick the guy up top that we think fits the opponent we’re playing and for me it made a lot of sense to go with Ryan Johnson. He’s done well in training. He scored a goal off the bench last game. But more important than that, we felt his strength in the air, his physicality, his ability to hold the ball up, his athleticism, his pace and power was a good matchup against [Jhon Kennedy] Hurtado and [Djimi] Traore. There’s some games where it’s a better matchup for Jose [Valencia] There’s some games it’s a better matchup for [Frederic] Piquionne, and obviously Maxi Urruti’s been injured, so we feel like we have four very good options and we’ll continue to pick the guys we think fit the game.”

On defending well:
“I think it’s the entire team. We defend from the front. Our front guys are the ones that initiate the pressure, so I think it’s 10 field players and our goalkeeper that deserve credit for us defending well. It doesn’t get to the backline a ton, but when it has recently, our center backs, our outside backs have been really good defending crosses, defending set pieces and limiting the opponents’ ability to get behind us and really break us down. They had a lot on the ball, but they really didn’t penetrate a ton and I think that’s the key. Mature teams, experienced teams on the road, you have to be able to absorb at times, that’s just tactical football. You’re naïve to think that you’re just going to have the ball and be up the field in the front half for 90 straight minutes, on the road with a [capacity crowd], playing a team that’s been in the playoffs the last five years. I think for this team to come in here and to get a result says a lot about how far we’ve come. It says a lot about this team. It says a lot about how seasoned we are even though we’ve not been together very long.”

On the importance of getting the first early goal:
“The first goal is always important. We’ve been emphasizing that recently. It’s an important thing to do. If you can get the first goal, usually at the very least you tie. Most of the time, you don’t lose, so I think that was crucial and it made them now have to open up. We talked about just being patient, that the second goal was in there if we were patient, which it was – we got the second goal – and in the end, they got a goal, but it doesn’t change a ton. It’s important in the next game, even though we’re up a goal in the aggregate, that we to play to win, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury
On scoring the first goal of the match:
“It’s something – not just here in Seattle – it’s something that we’ve harped on for quite a while; starting games well. There was a patch in the middle of the season we weren’t doing that, and it’s been a focus for us, so we were pressing. We wanted to start on the right foot and it was nice to get the goal early.”

On his assist:
“The reality is, me and Mikey (Harrington) pick and choose our time to go forward. We’re not overzealous about it. If it’s not on, we don’t go for it. They were obviously really concerned with Darlington [Nagbe] in front of me. With him doing that, it opened up some space for me to get down the line a few times tonight. We’ve been working on our crossing. Ryan [Johnson] made a great run and I was able to find him.”

On Darlington Nagbe’s goal:
“It got switched over to our side, Kalif [Alhassan] came inside and I overlapped and took [Leo] Gonzalez with me. Kalif ran at Adam Moffat and it opened up some space. He played a good ball, and Darlington [Nagbe] had an unbelievable first touch to get around the defender. It was a great first touch and a great finish. He’s an unbelievable talent and a guy that’s come along for us this year. I’m just so happy for him because he’s such a great kid on and off the field as well.”

On the team’s form:
“This team is very confident right now. We’re very comfortable in the way we’re playing. We can morph into different teams depending how the game is going. If it’s direct, we can fight with you. If it settles down, we can possess and go that way. It was a great start for us, very nice to get the goal, and especially nice to get the win.”

On heading home with a lead:
“It’s a place that we’ve been very tough to beat and we feel good about our chances. We wanted to come here and push the game to get a win and we’ll do the same at home.”

Timbers forward Ryan Johnson
On his goal:
“The majority of the balls make it to that near-post area. It was a good weighted ball and I did good enough to redirect it and it was a good finish.”

On making that run:
“It was just instinct. The odds of the ball making it to that far-post run are a lot harder, so the near-post run is a good one. As a center forward, you want to first make that near-post run, but you have to time it right. I hesitated and hesitated and then made my run and it worked out well. Those are things you practice all the time and it worked out.”

On the importance of scoring an early goal:
“We always believe if we score the first goal, we’re going to win the game. It definitely played true today. Going into halftime with a lead is huge for us.”

On winning and heading home:
“It’s confidence. To come in first place gives us the confidence to know we can come here and get the result like we did. Now going back home where we have the best home record in the league, we’re confident that no one is going to come there and beat us.”

Seattle Sounders FC Quotes

Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid
Thoughts on the match:
“I thought from the run of play we did enough to deserve a result. Obviously our finish wasn’t as sharp as Portland’s—they finished far less opportunities than we had. Our finishing needed to be a little bit better… The goal at the end of the game was very important for us, it gives us an opportunity to go down there and win. I think when you look at possession and where the ball was on the field and who created more chances—whether it’s corner kicks or things like that—we showed that we can carry the game, too. We just have to go down there and carry the game to them and score.”

On Portland’s strategy:
“I thought they tried to counter and play very direct and just try to spring counters and try to take advantage of their fresh legs over ours. I think at certain times in the game and on the field we looked a little more fatigued, obviously, because it was our third game. Like I said to the guys just now, when we go to Portland we’re going to be sharp, we’re going to be rested, and we’re not going to have heavy legs.”

On the team’s late goal:
“It’s an important goal, because we are down by a goal, it’s halftime of the game. We feel very confident we can go to Portland and win. Just as Portland came here and won, we feel very confident we can go there and win.”

On defensive weaknesses:
“Obviously, on the second goal I thought there were a number of times I thought we could win the ball—we could have double teamed the guy in the corner, we had a chance to win the ball. Djimi Traore probably needs to stay on his feet there. If you’re going to leave your feet in the box you need to win the ball.  He knows that, he’s a veteran player. Early in the game we gave too much space to (Jack) Jewsury. Adam (Moffat) was tucked in too far, as was Leo. So Jewsbury got a number of touches, you saw in the second half that really disappeared… So he got forward, Ryan Johnson makes a good near post run, we don’t follow him all the way and he hits the ball first.”

On the number of offensive chances:
“When the ball doesn’t go in the net, that’s challenging. It’s not like you sit there and we say, ‘Are we tight in the first legs or whatever.’ I thought we came out and we played. I thought they tried to sit back and counter early on and they had some success with that. I thought we carried the game to them. If we could have finished… Obviously the free kick of Dempsey in the first half, I think someone had a header, someone had a good header in the first half. There were times we were right around the box and our last pass just wasn’t there. We got to execute that. In terms of dominating the game territorially, being in the right part of the field, putting pressure on them, I thought we did a job.”

On set pieces:
“Dempsey has been taking our corners for the last three games… I just didn’t think we lined up well. We had chances to win some balls at the near post, and we didn’t take advantage of that. Maybe he didn’t work the corners as well as he may have liked, but it was either him or Brad (Evans) taking the corners and he felt comfortable hitting them. He was unlucky on his free kick in the first half as well.”

Sounders FC midfielder Clint Dempsey
On the impact of Alonso’s goal:
“Yeah it’s important.  Going into the last game you’d think out of two games that you’d have to win one of them if you wanted to advance, so if we can win 1-0 and take it into overtime. You’d expect you’d have to win a game in a two game series to go through.”

On his chances during the match:
“Yeah, I had a free kick, [Donovan Ricketts] made a save for a corner. I had another free kick that hit the post.  I had a left footed shot that went just wide. Then I had a header that hit someone on the line.  It hit their knee; it ended up being a goal kick but it should have been a corner.  Then I had the header at the end, but I had my chances tonight.  I was happy with the looks that I got and getting touches on the ball.  It just seemed like one of those nights where it wasn’t going to go in for me.  It’s important that we got the goal that we did get and like I said you’d think in two games that if you wanted to advance you’d have to win one of them and if we win 1-0 during regulation then that will take us into overtime.  So, hopefully we can get the job done.”

On preparation for the second leg in Portland:
“I mean it’s going to be a difficult game, but you have to go out there and play your best if you’re trying to stay alive. You don’t want to go home, you don’t want it to end and out of two games you think you’d have to win one to go through. We have to make sure we get the job done and I think we have the quality and with a few days more rest, because we’ve kind of been running and gunning here of late, maybe that will help us do that.”

Sounders FC midfielder Osvaldo Alonso
On the game:
“They just scored an early goal. We had some offensive opportunities that we missed, but we were able to score the late goal and that gives us an opportunity on Thursday.”

On his goal:
“That goal gave us the confidence to go down there and play our game. We will see what happens Thursday.”

On how important the late goal was:
“It was good because now we are only one down for the next game. It just gives us a chance to win the game.”

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.