Portland Timbers

Portland 1 Portmore 1 as Preseason continues…

For most folks this was the first chance to see some of the newer lads get stuck in with the reserves from last year who continue to battle for critical places on the substitution bench for Porter.

That is no easy task and getting minutes will be hard for many guys as Portland looks to take home some silverware this year.

In considering the new lads here’s the rundown on who played last night and my thoughts to go with them – if you joined me last night on my twitter feed you should already have an idea on who I thought performed well and who I thought needed to be better.

In working from the strongest to least strongest I’ll start here…

Nanchoff – As expected, lead the midfield – and like regular starters we saw him filter play down the middle, left and right – all told a strong performance by Michael and since day 1 in spring training last year he continues to impress. And the rocket, low driving, half-volley of the bounce, showed pedigree when striking just atop the 18 yard box!

Futty – Again, as expected, lead the back four and marshalled defensive channels as well as making the 2nd level pass with some good accuracy to bypass the Portmore midfield. We will probably see many more 2nd level passes from the center-backs this year so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he and McKenzie worked to that strategy as reserves.

For me what was a little surprising was seeing a slightly different back four rotation last night – at times Futty took up more of a ‘sweeper role’ with McKenzie out wide right and Peay (1st half) sliding back a bit to play out wide left. In the second half that approach changed when Peay moved to the right side and Powell pushed up to a forward role on the right and Villafana took Peay’s slot out left.

Long – this is the second full match I have seen him play and I hope you noticed the same things I did; his rotation and ball movement were usually crisp and on-target – and unlike the previous game where he and Nanchoff worked together, their on-field combined ball movement was well executed.

If you had to compare and contrast Fochive and Long – it would be Fochive taking on Chara’s role while Long took on Johnson’s role – in looking at those two guys last night it’s my belief that Long did better executing his role than Fochive.

Fochive – At times Fochive provided good close-down pressure on the defensive side but his ball movement and passing, to include first touch, seemed to be wanting last night. And yes, no major gaps on the defensive side, but midfielders for Porter have the toughest job as they need to be involved in the attack almost as much as the defense. More was needed, in a simple kind of ball movement way, from Fochive last night.

Villafana – Strong game, especially in the first half with some good crosses and interlinking down the left side (which I thought saw more action in the first half than down Schillo and Powells wing). All told he could have been more crisp in controlling his passes and dribbles in close quarters – more playing time should see him get better in working with others.

As for the Penalty – complete bollocks that was – if Jorge fouls that guy he should have recieved a yellow card – he didn’t and the referee blew that call; enough said – it is what it is. As for learning from it – with the fullbacks pressing so high it’s not surprising that Portmore got penetration so late in the game. With risk in running a wingback type system there can be reward as well as failure. In this instance Portmore were rewarded for the lapse in defensive positioning by Portland.

McKenzie – Wow – so many free headers – it is disappointing that McKenzie simply missed the target so many times last night. He really needs to be better in executing those shots – he’s a center-back and that’s how they score goals.

With respect to his defensive positioning, very good last night, but keep in mind that Portmore had less than 40% possession (an estimate) and even when they did have possession they didn’t keep it very long nor did they penetrate that much. In tighter competition, at an MLS level, he will need to be better…

Powell – Like Kalif, Powell shows some unique skills and it’s those unique skills that probably get him on this team – but like Kalif as well those unique skills are sometimes quashed by his weaknesses. Last night Powell was all over the pitch with his speed but getting ‘all over the pitch’ while losing the ball far too easily just doesn’t cut it in the MLS.

In my view he needs to be more simple and play less complicated. Too many times he dribbled ‘into’ pressure instead of away from pressure; and if you consider Nagbe for a minute – when Alvas gets the ball he just doesn’t make the same space for himself on his first touch that Darlington does. Maybe I am expecting too much but if the intent is to put the ball at his feet to make use of his speed his crosses and dribbling to penetrate and offer his crosses/shots needs to be better.

One final thought on Alvas – in his forward position he played well with his back to the goal and was able to turn on a dime and offer that shot late on – more of that when dribbling (to make space) will help him get better I think. And while he’s out there I still need to remind myself that he’s very young – and with that sometimes those guys look to impress with expression instead of simply playing simple.

Tshuma – Odd game for Schillo – he looked good in spurts and he looked not-so-good in spurts. Perhaps that is more or less down to lack of extensive playing time with the others but I would offer he needed to take advantage (if he had it) of the role Caleb offers in rotating a bit more freely when the run of play doesn’t come strictly down his wing.

In the first half he appeared out of sorts by not having many touches, from what I could see. In the second half that appeared to change as he was moved out left while Powell was pushed high right. I’m not sure if both those rotations were a positive role change or not – will have to see how tings play out as the season progresses on why Powell got moved high right – as for Schillo – moving left should not have been an issue and his one-two-three with Piquionne and Nanchoff showed good vision and timely passing with a good first touch.

Piquionne – I’m not sure if Piq was up for a full 90 minutes last night, nor some of the others, but getting that full 90 was probably about conditioning more than anything else. With respect to Piq; the guy is a veteran and knowing, going in, he was going to get a full 90 probably meant he tried to conserve some energy to better manage the game.

From that respect he did well – and dind’t get overly crazy with high pressure harassment. In considering the intent to manage a full 90 it is likely his touch would be off an occasion and it was – all told though Piquionne is a proven goal scorer and this game wasn’t about ‘having to prove himself’ this game was about conditioning and helping others get better.

Peay – Odd game for this lad; his defensive play was solid and he took his role playing the wing quite well. he got forward and he got touches on the ball; even had a potential goal scoring chance as well. What was missing in my view though were better first touches and the simple passes that continued possession. Like Powell and Fochive I think he needs to show more patience, like Long, and be more deliberate about retaining possession while taking those forward positions.

This is not a knock on his ability to play footy (nor is it a knock on Fochive or Powell) but when I view those three guys, and consider who they are supposed to back-fill if injuries occur, I’m just not feeling the same level of confidence I have when looking at Long, Nanchoff or Futty – based upon results last night.

Weber – good save last night but not really pressed for action that much. Since I’m not a goal keeper kind of guy I can’t really offer thoughts on his general run of play game management other than to say he looked okay to me.

As noted in my last tweet of the night – thanks for joining me in watching the game and hope you will join me again this Saturday.

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.