No Walk in the Park… and Certainly no Defense… Again!

If you read my pre-match on this game you know that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park; it wasn’t, and after all said and done the Timbers came away with 1 point.

Granted, they didn’t lose position in the League Table, but they didn’t gain breathing room either.

So what about yesterday?

With just 25 minutes in, the Timbers had at least 8 shots and the pressure applied in the San Jose final third was simply huge.  Sadly, all that effort translated to just more statistics without purpose.

That said – the Timbers hit a record of sorts that not many will be aware of… in all of their possession Sunday they are the first team in Major League Soccer to break the 40% barrier when it comes to penetration resulting from possession.

All told, their penetration per possession on Sunday was 44.72%.  In other words 44.72% of the time that Portland had the ball they penetrated the San Jose defending Final Third.  the MLS league average hovers around 22-24%… and rarely, if ever, exceeds 35%.

Huge, simply huge, so when Caleb Porter indicates the Timbers could have scored 10 goals he’s exactly right.

Alas; there is a flip side to that and it comes down to words like, impatient, frenetic, too fast – too furious.  Somehow I think a slightly slower frequency of penetration might have got them more time (and) more space… —> collectively; I think, too often on Sunday, that got one but not both.

In other words, for me, it’s all about balance… and considering they conceded 3 goals it, for the most part, really only mattered in that it got them 1 point.  Good – but not Great!

The game itself…

This game was never about playing a team who behaved like Vancouver – San Jose plays in the air and they play direct; part of this includes looking to take advantage of second chance balls, deflections, and rebounds…

i could offer thoughts on what player selection might have worked better but it would be misplaced; I don’t view these guys daily and so I’ll just put it down to the players didn’t perform to expectation and leave it at that.

That said, there is a regular expectation that certain players, like the Captain, Will Johnson, will perform a clear cut leadership role that controls emotion and minimizes disruptive behavior.

So I’m not sure this article will be the impetus for a wake up call, but through the course of this season, and this game in particular, his willy-nilly runs and poor passing, at crucial times, along with emotional out-bursts, are better suited to untrained 12 year-old soccer players, than a professional who’s supposed to behave and lead in a controlled manner.

If you think my criticism is misplaced because I’ve not played the game professionally – bollocks – this view is no different from any trained professional in any walk of life – and as a military veteran, the price paid for lack of concentration and poor leadership has far greater risks than those garnered in playing a game of soccer.

, and favorited your Tweet:  poor behavior from Will Johnson – sorry – he’s the Captain and he needs to show leadership here not emotion

Moving forward…

There are still two more games (six points available) against San Jose, so getting the player selection and defensive combination/rotation right still merits value.

Paparatto is an aerial player; perhaps he adds a different level of value in a game where an opponent is more likely to play aerial balls than ground-based attacking…  i.e defending against Vancouver is not the same as defending against San Jose.

In considering the overall league and level of play in defending…

MLS, with it’s salary cap and limitations on foreign players and designtated players, means greater import goes to scouting and finding players who can raise the level of team passing accuracy while also having the legs and will to defend (get behind the ball).  (AND)  At the same time they don’t cost a fortune – get them young and mold them to what is needed, provided they have the nous and passing accuracy/first touch skills so often used in this league.

In case you didn’t know, the Timbers do not have a formal – paid scout – nor do they have a large investment in high level statistical analysis… if you can’t invest in the base of the organizational pyramid, to build a lasting foundation, I’m not sure how a team can really go into a season with an expectation that winning on a regular basis is going to happen…  especially in a league where the quality of player versus the cost of the player is so fine-edged…

In closing:

The Timbers have done a great job in bringing in Diego Valeri.  He’s clearly (for me) one of the most influential players in this league – when he clicks the Timbers do great in attack.

Seven games remain – that target is still out there – and can be reached; defense first is what will get the Timbers to the Playoffs and through future rounds…

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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