Portland Timbers

Back to Square One…

In all my limited time around soccer the most important thing I stressed day in and day out to my players was defense first, defense second and attack third.

Now that ‘s not the solution in every case but for the most part you can’t lose if the opponent doesn’t score; the flip side of course is you can’t win if you don’t score as well.

That’s the constant battle faced by many in taking this game a step further – no matter what age or what level.  Put another way it’s all about risk… and managing that risk.

In watching the Timbers this past week, in what I think has been their greatest test so far this season, they showed that, as a team, the need to defend from the 35 minute mark wasn’t there.

I’m not sure what the answer is but there are people for more in the know working to answer that question better than me…

And clarity no doubt will come from viewing and reviewing video footage.

For me though, it was pretty clear – there wasn’t that visual and apparent urge, by ALL the midfielders, to get behind the ball when in defense.

And that’s my view on why the Timbers got beat…

So what about the rest of the year?

Defense first – the amount and frequency of goals being scored by the opponents has to stop – full stop.

Even more so when one or two of the stronger attacking players are injured.

A great example of a team that still remains dangerous this year is San Jose – yup – that’s right San Jose.

They may be near bottom of the league table but they have 3 games in hand and if those three games are wins they are above the red line – ahead of Colorado…

And seeing them control the Sounders this past weekend should remind folks that the Timbers not only have a hill to climb against those ahead of them, in points, they also have another team on their heals that still has a lot of energy (three games in hand) to push past them.

And for those that might not be aware – the team with the fourth best overall team defending performance in MLS this year is… San Jose; while Portland has dropped down to 10th.

If I wanted a top team to take on LA Galaxy I’d consider the attack of Portland and the defense of San Jose…

But even when doing that that still only puts their combined team performance in 3rd place overall – behind both Sporting KC and LA Galaxy.

Perhaps that gives you an idea of just how dominant the LA Galaxy are, at this stage of the year, compared to everyone else in MLS?

For me, their team performance against Seattle and Portland was stunning…

In closing…

I’m not sure removing and replacing Danny O’Rourke with Norberto Paparatto is the answer but if he’s fit and healthy I’d imagine that might be a consideration…

As for the fullback positions; if Michael Harrington is not injured that badly then I’d imagine seeing him and Jorge Villafana pair up might be a good thing; we’ve seen them together before.

In terms of attacking players and their need to defend – Kalif Alhassan basically ball watched as Robbie Rogers beat him wide – an injury to Fernandez a bit later in that game and perhaps we see Ben Zemanski come on instead of Alhassan?

However viewed the Champions League still looms ahead as does the ever narrowing chance to make the playoffs.

Balance and risk are critical – Caleb Porter knows this squad and his man-management always considers other issues that none of us are ever going to be aware of…

But sometimes outside views, that are the views of the ‘many’ are just as critical to success as internal views…

The decisions of the masses is what I think that’s called… and based upon feedback I’ve received in how a player or two has played in the past, the masses (I sense) feel or think Kalif Alhassan is not up to scratch…

Perhaps moving him on with the intent to receive allocation $$ might work better for the future as opposed to potentially losing him and getting nothing – when it comes to the expansion draft?

I don’t know…  but the next game, and the only game of importance, is this next weekend against Chivas – and if there was ever a must win at this stage in the season it’s this one…

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.