Portland Timbers

Building from the back… about last night…

Hopefully you witnessed the late surge and equalizing goal by Pa Madou Kah last night – if not as a witness in the stadium last night, perhaps at home on the telly?

I have no idea what the ESPN guys offered about the Timbers back-four and to be honest I could care less; it’s old news for many of us and frankly, stale.

Everyone knows that the back-four have not been up to par but I’d also offer it’s not just the ‘four’ it’s more than four – and while Ricketts made some superb saves last night he also made a complete blunder – a school kid blunder.

He came wayyyyy out of his box near stoppage time and if not for a sub-talented Moffat being on the ball it is likely the scoreline would have read 3-1 to FC Dallas and not 2-2.

However viewed and given this article, published by Dan Itel, Caleb Porter acknowledged the team defense is poor in the press conference last night.

I would offer it’s pretty rare for a Head Coach to be as open and honest as Caleb was last night – given the quotes – my guess is that is Caleb’s way of saying to the media – hey – things were a bit testy last time around and here’s some info that should even the score.

Whatever folks think is what they think.  In considering Caleb’s statement an intriguing article appeared on Stumptownfooty offering up that Liam Ridgewell, a center-back who’s played most of his career around or near the Brummies, may be joining the team.

He’s originally from Bexleyheath (east-southeast London) which means most will be able to understand what he says.  If Liam was from the Midlands it’d be likely most players would need an interpreter.

The article even includes a picture of what many feel is Ridgewell hanging out with Paulson in his suite last night.

So what else might we see besides a new player if the defense looks to improve? 

If Harrington is going to continue as the right back – good move last night IMO – is it too far out of the realm to see Jack Jewsbury slot in as a Center-back?  I don’t think so and here’s why…

For what Jack lacks in height he more than makes up for it with his “nous” / mentality.

It is his superb reading and understanding of the game that helps make Jack a top player – and with a great mentality and understanding of the game, on and off the pitch, it might be an option for Caleb to consider Jack as a Center-back.

Now this isn’t advocating a specific change but it is an attempt to offer up that there remain options available for Caleb that might sit well with the club chemistry while also sitting well with the financial side of things – and don’t consider Jack’s height an issue – Danny O’Rourke is also 6′ tall.

By the way – in case you missed it – it wasn’t Kah who was voicing, pointing, and directing in the back-four (second half) last night – it was O’Rourke.  Aye – he was guiding and pointing and looking to provide leadership and direction where one would normally expect to see Kah doing that.

In terms of some key statistics for the game.

If you followed me on twitter last night and read my pre-match report you should know that a great indicator on a defending style (and in turn), an attacking style, is the volume of passes an opponent offers up within the attacking final third.

Last night clearly showed FC Dallas were playing a counterattacking style – at the half Portland had 76 passes attempted in the Dallas defending third while Dallas had just 54 within the Portland defending third.

In the second half those numbers increased to 110 for Portland and reduced to 30 for FC Dallas; all told the combined penetrations were 186 for PTFC and 84 for FC Dallas.

First Half = The difference was how effective those Dallas passes were in pulling the fullbacks and center-backs out of position – it was almost like watching Real Salt Lake in how effective their first half attack was last night.

And the wide open feel to the game didn’t help – I don’t recall very many possessions where Portland looked to string together passes that were deliberate in looking to create open spaces; on the other hand – given the amount of open space voluntarily offered by Dallas – they didn’t have too.

Second half = The work rate in penetration increased by 40 additional passes in the Dallas Final Third – that overwhelming change in pressure – coupled with Zakuani and Harrington coming off and Fernandez and Urruti coming on, made the difference.

We’ve seen Caleb go to a three back defense before and it has paid dividends – how many times can he go to the well and do that again?  And how many times does Caleb ‘really’ want to go to the well and do that again?  Not many I hope.

Another intriguing angle on that move is this…

It was Michael Harrington that got pulled and not Jorge Villafana – from my view that speaks volumes on just how much positive influence Villafana has added to the attack without sacrificing the defense…  Perhaps others have a different view?

Adi adding value…

Fenando Adi continues to show maturity and a great understanding of his role with this team.

I was pleasantly surprised to see him start last night – not because I didn’t think he was worthy – just surprised that he could go a full ninety + minutes in that short of a time frame again.

The other Capt. Obvious advantage to Adi is his physical presence.

Last night what stood out to me the most was his consistent presence in creating and generating goal scoring opportunities.

I certainly hope the Timbers make him an offer he can’t refuse – his loss would again create a #9 void that the Timbers can ill afford to lose.

On upgrading the back-four…

Old news for many of us and I think the Timbers need at least two new defenders.

In considering spilt-milk I’m not sure what the rationale was for letting David Horst go and I’m not sure his inclusion in the side would have made a difference given how poorly Houston are performing this year.

But like a team needs a target #9 in this league to survive I also think a team needs a big #4 to survive.

Borchers represents that for RSL, Olave does for New York, Besler does for SKC, Marshall (as slow as he is) does for Seattle, Goodson (as slow as he is) does for San Jose, Gonzalez does for LA, Goncalves does for New England, and Boswell does for DC United.

And while Pa Madou Kah does offer a physical presence there is just something about his actions that unnerve at times…  it is what it is…

In closing…

Some much needed rest and then the US Open Cup next week; should be fun and perhaps we see some of the other guys like Alhassan or Nanchoff get a start?

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.