Portland Timbers

Bleeding and cornered… Timbers to face Sounders in huge Nationally Televised Match this Saturday

Although early days the season has not started with a bang for Portland – two tough draws at home plus two tough losses on the road have left the Timbers reeling, bloodied and brusied. How to cope?

It’s no secret that clean sheets played a huge part in how the Timbers turned around last years slow start and no time could be better for the faithful supporters in Providence Park to see the Timbers start April with a shutout against the hated rivals from that ‘city up north’…

So who gets the head nod this weekend?  Great question and Will Conwell, from Stumptownfooty has already beaten me to the punch in asking that – if you want to see the latest probabiliites in answering that question I suggest you take in his article – I will not repeat it here…

Nor will I offer up who I think starts and here’s why… for me it doesn’t matter. No? Yes?

That might appear a bit cheeky or avoiding the question because I don’t want to or don’t have an answer to that question but I’d put it a different way… it just doesn’t matter.

And here’s why…

Throughout the 90+ minutes of a football match there are individual battles occuring at the same time there are team battles – and if one player is faster or slower than another then a good team (well coached team) will already make adjustments on tactics to take that into account.

So if Player x is a fullback and is a bit slower than some opponent wingers then Player y (playing near Player x) will have a slightly different role than if Player x is faster than the opponent.

What really matters in this game is how well Caleb Porter knows and understands the individual strengths of his players as he looks to set up a starting 11 that gives his team the best chance to play to his style and his philosophy in order to win the game.

If you think Player z is getting the start because he is ‘better’ than Player x fahgetaboutit… Player z gets a start because his combined strengths and weaknesses work better against the opponent than Player x…

Here’s another view for your consideration…

Last year the MLS Possession with Purpose “averages” for my Six Step Process are provided in the Table below as well as what the ‘averages’ are for Portland (this year after four games) for Attacking and Defending:

Six Steps Possession Percentage Passing Accuracy Penetration Percentage Creation of Shots Percentage Shots on Goal Percentage Goals Scored Percentage
MLS Average Last Year

50%

76%

22%

20%

34%

30%

PTFC Average in Attack this Year

54%

72%

20%

21%

27%

24%

PTFC Average in Defending the Opponents this Year (their Attacking PWP Percentages

46%

72%

24%

19%

47%

30%

 

In considering the evidence available what’s different from last year compared to this year remembering that PTFC exceeded the MLS averages last year given their high PWP Composite Index rating…

  1. The Timbers amount of possession remains higher than average compared to the rest of MLS; we should probably already know that but here’s the evidence showing that.
  2. Passing accuracy has dropped by 4% this year compared to last year for both Portland and their opponents – what this most probably means is there is more pressure being applied to the ball and players as it moves from one player to another – though it may also indicate that with newer players in a team the teams are not yet performing at maximum efficiency.
  3. Penetrating in order to create opportunities has droppped for Portland but increased for the opponent.  I’d view this as being evidence that the Timbers are not defending as well in the midfield as teams look to penetrate – or – opponents are taking a different penetration approach that the Timbers have not yet adjusted to.  On the attacking side; the drop is most probably do to new chemistry on the team but the system in which the Timbers play should not really have changed so perhaps this is an early indicator that teams have adjusted to the Timbers system and that a different scheme of penetration is needed.
  4. Taking shots based upon opportunities provided – not much of a difference here when considering the initial end state in shots taken but when looking at step 5 – putting those shots on target there is significant difference.
  5. The Timbers ‘quality’ compared to the average for last year is down at least, at least, 7% (remember the Timbers exceeded these MLS averages last year).  In stark contrast the Opponent’s average is 47% – that is a whopping 13% points higher than the MLS last year and provides clear evidence that the defense isn’t working.  Another view here is that this percentage number is heavily influenced by penalties – that’s a good view – what increased penalties indicates is that the defense is most probably out of position to begin with.
  6. In considering the goals scored – what this indicates to me is that the level of Goal Keeping is fine and the issue is not with the keeper but with the back-four.

In closing…

Others may certainly have a different view but for me the evidence points to the back four and the midfield shape in supporting the back four.

If changes are due they are most likely influenced by injuries and suspensions but the bottom line here is that even without injuries or suspensions the defensive chemistry and on-field mix needs to get better.

Can Portland get better for this big game against Seattle?  I hope so… the vitriol is likely to increase at an incredible rate if it doesn’t… managing a team and all the nuance that goes with it is an extremely difficult job.

I trust that Caleb Porter has a firm understanding on what lies ahead for this team regardless of what my statistics, or those statistics of others show.

All the 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 PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.