Peeling back the Portland Timbers

What’s inside the Portland Timbers performance this year?

Some basic info to get started about how well Portland’s opponents have performed this year against Portland:

  1. Possession – Opponents for Portland average 48.21% possession; 8th best in defending against the opponent.
  2. Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch – 74.12%; 7th best in defending.
  3. Penetration into the Portland Defending Third per Pass Completed across the Entire Pitch – 23.40%; 3rd worst in defending.
  4. Shots Taken per Completed Pass in the Final Third – 20.25%; 7th worst in defending.
  5. Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – 34.67%; 9th best in defending.
  6. Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal – 34.36%; 12th best in defending.

Some thoughts based upon this info:

  • Is it possible teams attacking Portland have figured out how to penetrate against the double pivot power of Will Johnson and Diego Chara?
  • Is it really all about the back-four?  Might the reflection of mistakes in the back-four be associated with different attacking patterns opponents have taken in overall penetration?
  • In addition, the average success rate of Crosses offered by Portland opponents this year is 46.09%  (Errata – upon double checking and ensuring filters are appropriate that success rate is acutally 27.76% – my apolgoies) the two teams most effective against PTFC were Dallas at 42.86% and SSFC at 44.44%)
  • So it not only looks like defending crosses is a weak point – it also appears that is a primary source for opponent passing completion accuracy in the Final Third.
  • That weakness not only speaks to poor marking in the 18 yard box; it also supports how weak the fullbacks are, combined with midfielders, in closing down the opponent (hurrying them) prior to delivering a cross!
  • Additional hurt for the Timbers were four PK’s eariier this year; perhaps that’s a reflection of the poor support the midfielders have provided in the counterattack?
  • Or… perhaps the fullbacks are simply coming into the attacking half/final third far to deep?

So how about the Timbers in their attack against opponents this year?

  1. Possession – 51.79%; 8th best in MLS.
  2. Passing Accuracy – 75.01%; 11th best.
  3. Penetration – 18.42%; 5th worst.
  4. Shots Taken given penetration – 21.37% – 6th best.
  5. Shots on Goal per Shot Taken – 32.12%; 6th worst in MLS.
  6. Goals Scored per shots on goal – 31.43%; 11th best in MLS.

Some thoughts based upon this info:

  • Perhaps some might now see why adding Adi to the team brings value.  In looking at last year (25.34%) Portland have dropped off considerably in this key indicator now (18.42%). That’s a 7% drop off in attacking penetration.  So while the back four remain an issue – so does the attack!
  • If you read this link to Expected Wins you’ll see that being in the ‘best’ for Shots Taken frequency is not good compared to teams who win.  Winning teams take fewer shots per penetration than losing teams.
  • So what this is saying is the Timbers are still showing less patience in attack than their opponents.
  • Things are getting better though – in their first 5 games the Timbers Shots Taken relative to penetration was 22.85% – in the 5 most recent games that percentage has dropped to 19.89%.
  • First five games = 3 points; last five games 6 points; again supporting the analysis offered up in my Expected Wins article.
  • Shots on goal – the lower rating here again reinforces the analysis shown in Expected Wins.
  • While that’s not a whole lot of data for consideration you may want to visit my article on Crosses, published on SoccerYanks that shows PTFC information compared to the rest of MLS.

In closing:  

It would appear that obtaining a target striker is just as critical to the attack as obtaining a Center-back is to the defense.

Both attacking and defending need to work together to help a team win.

Let’s hope that is the case for the future.

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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