Timbers travel to Houston… A Horst of a different color…

In Thursdays meeting with members of the press Caleb Porter offered his thoughts about the upcoming game with Houston. Others have done a good job capturing most of what was offered but for me I’d like to add a few thoughts not already mentioned.

In considering some research I have been doing about passing accuracy in the Final Third I asked Caleb if the Timbers had taken any different steps in training this last week or two to try and improve passing accuracy within the Final Third.

Caleb indicated yes (to paraphrase) …earlier this year we were probably a bit more anxious in the final third and starting last week (as part of our training for Real Salt Lake) we are working more on not just penetrating and shooting straight away – but trying to build towards taking better shots.

In clarifying we (the Timbers) talked about doing better in possession – we had 51% possession, over 400 passes, we’ve trained hard all week to be more patient on the ball and finish better…  “possession with purpose”….

As background for my question to Coach Porter; here’s what I’ve seen different between this year and last year (in the Final Third).

This year the Timbers passing accuracy in the final third is ~64%; with an average of completion of 63 passes per 98 passes attempted.

Last year the Timbers passing accuracy in the final third last year was 70..35%; with 84 passes completed out of 120 passes attempted in the final third… That is a considerable drop in totals and averages.

In closing…

For 2014 the Timbers have been penetrating with less frequency and are less accurate as they move the ball about the final third; does that impact their goal scoring output?  I think so and when considering how close the margin is between winning and losing a drop off of 6% in accuracy per 100 passes means 6 passes go wanting.

And with players like Nagbe and Valeri those six passes could be through-balls, crosses, chips or other leading passes creating better space to get a better shot on goal.  When a game can be won or lost in a matter of seconds 6 failed passes deep in the attacking third can be the difference between winning and losing.

Put another way; as noted in my article on Expected Wins across MLS.  With 102 games played in MLS this year winning teams average fewer shots taken (12.32) but more shots on goal (4.90) and score more goals (2.19 goals per game) while teams that lose average (13.39 shots taken) with 4.10 of those shots on goal but just .58 goals per game.

As for the back-four… it should be pretty physical across the entire pitch this weekend.  Houston will want to put that very poor performance against New York behind them as quickly as possible. Quality will count and set-pieces for the Dynamo may be crucial in this game with an expected height advantage led by the David Horst.

It will be odd to see David in the orange of Houston this Sunday – in considering his recent past with injuries I hope he’s put them behind but I’d prefer to see some cracking Timbers goals and three points for Portland.

In case you missed it here’s my article covering my interview with Preki and the status of Jake Gleeson as well as his thoughts on Aaron Long.

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.

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