Taking the pulse of Portland prior to Providence Park tonight…

Tonight most know that Caleb Porter has already indicated the ‘must win’ phase of the year has begun.  

If you missed that tidbit here’s a link to the video the Timbers offered up earlier this week – from my vantage point I non-violently agree 100% with what Caleb offers — it is indeed — a must win.

And it’s no wonder given the less the glamorous record at home – all told the Timbers have taken less than 50% of their points at home (10 here and 11 on the road).

And in case you’ve been asleep or completely disengaged from Timbers football the primary reason for the lack of points has been down to defensive mental mistakes.

Hard not to recall that late PK awarded against Chicago or the two PK’s awarded to Columbus to kick off the season.  Let alone the complete meltdown against Seattle or the two PK’s against Vancouver.

No team has conceded more PK’s, per game this year, than Portland (.47).

Stunning really when you think about it – and the bottom line on that is a reflection on how poorly the positional play has been as the opponent has penetrated the defending Final Third and 18 yard box.

No greater example of that than the last game where Will Johnson, usually the most tuned in player, completely fell asleep and played Dempsey on-side…

Some may offer that is spilt milk – well it is, but it’s a pattern of spillage on a far to regular basis.

Given that – the critical statistic I’ll be tracking tonight is how well and how often the newly regenerated Timbers back-four can remain organized as they look to control stray penetration by using the off-side trap.

Key area to watch should be roughly 10-20 yards atop the 18 yard box; will the Timbers keep a line when not in possession?

And how quickly will the Fullbacks get back, or the central midfielders get back when possession is lost – the key will be numbers goal side of the ball…

I don’t offer this focus lightly…

The Timbers are 5th worst in MLS in trapping their opponents off-side and they are (more worse) at home than they are on the road – (1.27 off-side calls per game at home compared to 1.67 on the road).

Perhaps that was one of the things Donovan Ricketts had in the back of his mind when he said the team is not performing well at home?

Back Four…

I’ve been away for the week and I understand Liam Ridgewell is most likely to start alongside Norberto Paparatto.

That’s two guys who have yet to play together in a competitive match – that might be a struggle.

But if both are professional, tuned-in, switched on, and take heed of advice from Ricketts hopefully the center will hold.

On either side should be Michael Harrington and Jorge Villafana.

I’d expect to see at least one stay back a bit if the other ventures forward; especially if the score-line is nil-nil.

Firepower has never been that much of an issue with Portland – they should score goals and the most likely avenue is away from Drew Moor (if healthy?).

If Fenando Adi starts up top I think he will need a counter-foil (false #10) for support (be it Rodney Wallace, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri or Gaston Fernandez).  Adi can work on his own but I think having someone up near (with him) takes advantage of the space he doesn’t occupy, his deft touch, and very good vision…

In closing…

Both Colorado and Portland might start this game in wide-open mode.

Both are known for yielding penetration into their own defending Final Third in order to maximize opportunities from counter-attacking.

The volume of opponent passes in the defending third for both teams reflect that; both teams have opponents who average more than 100 passes in their own defending Final Third.

In addition, the Goals Against for Colorado, on the road, are quite high (1.56 per game) and the Goals Against for Portland, at home, are also quite high (1.82 per game).

All told — it’s likely it’s a high-scoring affair.

In considering the Possession with Purpose Indices…

Colorado sit on 2.35 and Portland 2.40; in Defending Colorado are 2.24 and Portland are 2.43; the edge in attack goes to Portland and the edge in defending goes to Colorado.

All told Colorado is 4th best in MLS in Composite PWP – Seattle is 3rd, LA is 2nd, and Sporting KC is 1st.

In case you missed it Germany was tops in CPWP in the World Cup, Argentina was 2nd, France 3rd, Colombia 4th and Holland 5th…

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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