In retrospect – Timbers versus Rapids – After some time to settle

In going through the many well written offerings here in Portland about the much beloved Timbers I’d like to offer a different view for consideration.

And it goes back to the same diagram I offered earlier; this one:

Comparisons to Last Year

Comparisons to Last Year


Well here’s why – the strategy and tactics employed by Caleb Porter this game were no different – absolutely no different than the those other games offered up in 2013.

So there is a clear track record of the Timbers taking points when taking a less possession based attack where the defense yields a bit of space and time in order to lull the opponent into making mistakes.

Note that Portland had three draws and three wins before running up against the wicked RSL diamond 4-4-2 and that ugly loss to Columbus last year where Kah got sent off.  (striking resemblence there with a red card and a PK to boot).

What really happened this past weekend is the slowness of the back-four got exposed against the speed and vision of Deshorn Brown.

So collectively not all went according to plan but the approach, the systematic approach employed by Caleb, which had shown a great track record last year didn’t work..

Now it’s 2014 and every team, literally every team except DC United, has gotten better – so updates are clearly needed to include, most likely, a change in the back-four personnnel if this system is to work again this year.

This should include rotating Jack to the subs bench and bringing on either Villafana to man the left side while Harrington moves right or Powell coming in as a straight swap for Jack…

In pre-season this year I saw, on numerous occasions, the Timbers running simulated plays where the central midfield is ‘not the hub’ of activity – the hubs, good or bad appeared to come from the wingbacks (fullbacks) and centerbacks – with the intent – I think – to open up the middle a bit more becuase teams were packing them in.

So what is missing if the team intends to go wider when the opponent packs in – wing speed and the ability to deliver better crosses – but where do the crosses go when there isn’t a target center-forward? And where do they get delivered from?

With Jack on the right the tendency should be to deliver crosses from higher up the pitch but that approach doesn’t usually open up the middle; it tends to pack it even more – what is needed is deep wing penetration, like we have seen with Zakuani.

So does Diego Valeri have the speed and strength out wide to take on those ‘deep’ additional duties that Zakuani provides or is he better suited to offer up his vision and more precise passing in the middle of the park like last year? 

I’m not sure – but when considering the maturity of Darlington Nagbe I would offer Nagbe is better suited in that wideout role on the right and then he uses his dribbling ability to pull the middle apart a bit more to create space for Valeri and Gaston. Then – with Harrington or Powell on the right side they have the speed to overlap while also the speed to recover if the ball is turned over.

Another consideration – can or does Zakuani have the ability to rotate to the right? I have seen him rotate in some games before (with that city up north) and that increased role may occur sometime soon – an inverted winger attack can sometimes be even more potent when considering the inswinging crosses that get offered as they cut towards the box.

The hard nut to crack on some of this is who takes on the target role for these crosses? Is it Gaston or someone like Piquionne?

However this all fits I’m not sure yet but I imagine Caleb has a plan, and given his cerebral nature, I think he’ll figure it out soon.

Best, Chris

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, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.

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