For Hire: Football Analyst

If you’re in the market for a football analyst that will help identify positional weaknesses based on the concepts of building platforms for possession and penetration, within and into the attacking final third, leading to shot creation and shots taken, please contact me at the earliest opportunity.

I perform video analyses as well as statistical analyses on team as well as individual players; and am willing sign an NDA.

While I’m not going to list every personal accomplishment here I would offer my greatest achievement has been having my own work presented, twice, at the World Conference on Science and Soccer – both in 2014 (Oral Presentation) as well as 2017 (Poster Presentation).

No other private analyst, in the United States, has ever developed a Total Team Performance Soccer Index that has greater correlation to points earned and possession/non-possession based soccer; that can also be used to predict future performance.

Kind regards, Chris Gluck

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World Cup 2022: Why did US Men’s National Team Fail?

Awhile ago – like 4 years ago I wrote this article and made a list as to why the US Soccer team didn’t qualify for WC 2018; here’s my short list of ‘on-pitch’ reasons to refresh your memory:

  • They lack on field leadership.
  • They lack the ability to possess the ball with any sense of conviction.
  • They lack the ability to penetrate with any sense of continuity in possession leading to that penetration.
  • They are predictable.
  • They lack “controlled aggression”.
  • Their team passing statistics are horrible.
  • They lack a pure #9, #8, #7, and #6 in the traditional sense of soccer.
  • They lack ‘shut-down’ fullbacks.
  • They lack center-backs who can not only possess the ball, but control space in and around their own 18 yard box with pace and fortitude.
  • They have a great goalkeeper.
  • Some of the players are really-really fast, many are slow or really slow.
  • Some of the players have a great first touch, many don’t.
  • Both Head Coaches have shown an inability to use the right tactics against opponents.

I’ll revisit each of them as an update ‘four years later’:

  • On field leadership – there’s no question Pulisic provides this leadership – as does Adams – so tick this box as fixed.
  • Possessing the ball with conviction – yes, this too appears fixed to some extent – but NO – the Men’s National Team does not CONTROL the game through possession – they continue to rely more on counter-attacking than in ‘controlling’ the game through possession. I see this as a function of coaching weakness not only with the current head coach but also within the overall development of players in our country.
  • Possessing with the intent to penetrate – yes, as much as you can associate the intent behind ‘breaking the lines’ with penetrating passes and/or dribble drives based upon the talent of some individual players – this is more a function of the players and their individual development playing in Europe it is not a function of players playing in Major League Soccer.
  • Predictability – this remains an issue – as long as the Americans cannot control a game through possession they will always be predictable. This fault lies directly with the head coach.
  • Controlled aggression – yes, this has been fixed to a degree – no-one was issued a red card and opposing players, were, to a good extent, pressured, physically, by the midfielders. But for the most part the central defenders lacked considerable presence – lest we forget the penalty awarded for Zimmerman’s ignorance in leaving his feet inside his own 18 yard box – a tackle that led to a penalty – a reminder for all that players who play in MLS simply don’t have the appropriate nous to play at the very highest levels of competition.
  • Passing – overall the team passed the ball better – at times – but what remains the major weakness – “not being able to control a game through possession with purpose” remains. This, again, is the fault of the head coach.
  • Pure #9, etc – while the midfielders and ‘outside forwards’ add great value to this team their REMAINS a considerable weakness in having a dominating #9. WHY? Well the reason is simple, there remains absolutely no proper coaching, at any level, in our country, where a #9 can learn how to play the game. This is the fault of the head coach and every other head coach in our country. Somewhere, anywhere, there MUST be at least 10 or 20 young players who have the nous to be a dominating #9 – most likely those types of players are playing a different sport than soccer. OR, they simply aren’t ‘rich’ enough to play at the very highest levels, in America, within the youth soccer programs. Bottom line here, this is down to poor head coaching and poor organizational leadership.
  • Shut down fullbacks – For the most part, yes – both Dest and Robinson did well at times – but as pure, pedigree – shut down fullbacks – no. And when you consider Yedlin was still in the team squad there remains a considerable weakness in that area.
  • Center-backs – NO – THIS area remains as much of a weakness as our #9 situation – and, again, I put the force force of blame on this down to the head coach and the entire
    US soccer organization. Surely there are faster and stronger lads who can learn to play the game of soccer that are currently playing other sports in our country – look at all the wide receivers and tight ends playing youth American Football” that could be playing, learning to play, center-back in our country – oddly enough the same caliber of player who could play as a #9 is the very same caliber of player who could be playing as a center-back.
  • Goalkeeper – Not an issue – never has been and likely never will be.
  • Speed of players – as noticed by any non-educated’ watcher – the Center-backs are slow – very slow – otherwise the majority of other field players have good to great foot speed.
  • First touch – apart from our center-backs and our center forwards the rest of the players on the pitch have a good first and second touch (for the most part). I don’t see this as a weakness outside of those two general areas.. I don’t see this as a strength of American coaching – I see it as a strength of players who are learning how to be successful in Europe – as for MLS, no way – this league remains a pedantic, pedestrian league for American plyers to ‘survive’ in alongside imported players who actually create the nous we don’t see with Americans. I blame this on American coaching and the general US Soccer organization.
  • Tactics – outside of the game against England – where it appeared Southgate was just as much afraid of the US as Berhalter was afraid of the English I’d offer the tactical nous of Berhalter lacked. I said it back in 2017 – Jesse Marsch should have been selected as the US Men’s National Team Head Coach. I remain STUBBORNLY STEADFAST and STEADFASTLY STUBBORN Jesse Marsch should be leading our Country. Oh, wait, Marsch is now a head coach for Leeds United, a position likely never to be held by Gregg Berhalter!

So, on pitch, the reason why the US Men’s National Team failed is strictly down to poor coaching and poor player development within the overall US Soccer Organization. Every positional weakness we see is down to the Coach and the US Soccer Organization in player position development. The fault of our team is not, I repeat, not down to the players.

MEDIA:

Finally – perhaps the greatest culprit in why Soccer simply doesn’t get better in our country is down to our media and, in particular, the absolute bollocks offered up by FOX Sports and the likes of Alexi Lalas, Clint Dempsey, Rob Stone, Stu Holden, Landon Donovan, John Strong, Chad Ocho-Cinco (who the fuck is this guy?) and the rest of the (not named) crew.

I have never heard a more condescending, pedantic, over-hyped group of hyperbole (bullshit and bollocks) in my life. What was gratifying was reading Aaron Timms article in the Guardian offering the same views.

While it may not make sense to many I put at least 50% of the blame on our nation’s failure, in the World Cup, down to the absolute bullshit (offered year in, year out) by our media. And a good portion of that bullshit media starts with Twitter and the ‘click-bait’ environment it has created.

Best, Chris

Does Major League Soccer facilitate people like Merritt Paulson?

I won’t offer a whole lot here today – just this little nugget.

How many articles has MLS.Soccer.com written about Merritt Paulson that address the latest issues: NONE…

In case you missed it here’s the most recent list of articles written about Merritt Paulson by MLS writers:

And, again, in case you missed it here’s the most recent list of articles written about Gavin Wilkinson by MLS writers.

Huh, is it unreasonable to believe www.mls.soccer.com is condoning his behavior?

I think so, Major League Soccer is nothing but minor league in every shape; from it’s analytics to it’s operational construct. What a joke!

Kind regards, Chris

Merritt Paulson, Gavin Wilkinson, Portland Timbers, and Portland Thorns Organizations Embarrass Portland Oregon

Well, I won’t say I told everyone so but beginning in 2012, when I first started covering the Portland Timbers, I always figured Paulson, Wilkinson, Golub, and others (to remain nameless) offered timely lip service, always with the intent to get what they wanted regardless of who it impacted.

In case you missed it – here’s what I’m referring to: Portland Thorns dismiss…

I really do hope the Timbers get their arse kicked this next weekend in Salt Lake – couldn’t happen to a better organization.

Later… Chris

2022 US Open Cup

Well, the new tournament has started and already some upsets in the mix:

CHICAGO (April 7, 2022) – The final matchday of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Second Round brought three more cupsets and was capped off by an explosion of goals (11 in total) in the last two games of the evening. In all, eight final teams punched their ticket to the Third Round, which will see the entrance of 17 lower seeded U.S. based Division I (MLS) clubs when play takes place from April 19-21 on ESPN+.

  • The match between Charleston Battery (USLC) and South Georgia Tormenta FC (USLL1) originally scheduled for Wednesday, April 6 was postponed to Thursday morning due to inclement weather. Tormenta FC won the match 1-0 at Patriots Point Soccer Stadium in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. to kick off the final Second Round matchday with a cupset. They were followed by impressive upsets from Chattanooga FC (NISA), who dispatched Memphis 901 FC (USLC) 3-1, and Greenville Triumph SC (USLL1) who slipped past Oakland Roots (USLC) 2-0.
  • Elsewhere, Rochester New York FC (MLSNP), Hartford Athletic (USLC) and Birmingham Legion FC (USLC) all cruised to victory before the fireworks began out west where Sacramento Republic FC (USLC) scored a 6-0 rout of Portland Timbers U23 with all the goals coming in the first half — and California United Strikers FC (NISA) blanking local qualifiers San Fernando Valley FC (Calif.) 5-0.
  • Besides the 17 MLS squads, the Third Round will feature 15 clubs from Div. II (USL Championship), 14 from Div. III: USL League One – 8, NISA – 4, MLS NEXT Pro – 2, and two Open Division amateurs: USL League Two – 1, NPSL – 1.

All that offered above is pure information about the US Open Cup as things stand today – now for some editorial opinion.

This tournament approach is the biggest ripoff of an “Open” soccer tournament in the world – since when does geographic location have anything to do with how a tournament is organized – oops – there’s the Men’s and Women’s World Cup I guess…

Okay, I’m convinced the idea is a good one, but the United States is NOT the size of the entire world – it’s fifty states all pretty much located within a reasonable geographical boundary where it’s usually no more than a five hour flight between the east and west coast.

So WHY it is that EVERY YEAR this tournament is played small/medium/large teams from the northeastern coast of the United States never-ever face their counterparts from the southeastern US, middle America or the West Coast until much later in the competition?

Every year we usually see the bigger MLS teams make a run for the cup no differently than they do in a geographically organized MLS. Meaning the US Open Cup is really no different that MLS Playoffs. (Boring)….

If it’s a true Open Cup then the geographical boundaries need to be removed. It’s just not proper cricket that we, as a nation of growing soccer supporters, have to put up with this bollocks.

Isn’t it ironic that a mostly purely capitalistic country has the MOST socialistically developed soccer league – while the primarily socialistically developed continent of Europe (the big land across the Atlantic pond that Donald Trump was trying to abandon as part of NATO) has the most purely capitalistic soccer leagues in the World.

And we wonder why the United States Men’s National Team gets routinely thrashed by most European football teams… As for the Women’s team – well it’s likely, given league development in Europe, the dominance of ‘athleticism’ by our great female athletes will be surpassed by a large margin in 2023.

US Soccer is a pathetically rich organization that sustains the status quo…

Maybe NEXT year we will see a true Open Cup that drops geographical boundaries and completely opens up the game.

Best, Chris

Total Soccer Index Returns

Well the last few years have been quite a disappointment with MLS changing their soccer statistics format and other public sites no longer offering the key statistics I need in order to provide the United States soccer supporters a worthy Index that rates teams based upon controlled possession, penetration, creation, and shot taking.

But that’s changed, after a considerable review of publicly made available soccer statistics I’ll now be able to provide some cutting edge team performance analyses; to include the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, at least for the United States.

What does this mean? Well, for those who’ve previously followed my analyses I’ll now be able to provide you a good forecasting tool to help you with betting. And, likely, some good team performance info that will help you determine what individual players may help you on your fantasy teams.

I wish you all good luck and good fortune next year.

Best regards, Chris

Portland Timbers defeat Colorado Rapids 1 – Nil

Ever since their thrashing at the hands of Seattle Sounders around mid-season this year the Portland Timbers have been a team on a mission. Win, Win, and then Win again.

No team in MLS has done better since August 21st than Portland… No one.

Why is this and how, exactly, did that manifest itself in Colorado Thanksgiving day yesterday?

Well, it WASN’T down to Expected Goals (like www.mlssoccer.com Charles Boehm offers) just exactly how ignorant does he think the American soccer supporter really is, lest I forget about all you “full kit wankers”? Nor was it down to failed progression in penetrating possession by Colorado (based off statistics).

In case you didn’t know “Expected Goals” is NOT a statistical forecasting tool. Sorry, I just can’t NOT diss any writer who uses a statistical tool that has absolutely NO CORRELATION to points earned/lost…

In short……….. It was down to grist, grit, and nous knowing that set-pieces can win games. And with their star player taking a fall from a hamstring injury it was clear that grist was their avenue to victory.So what’s next for Portland? Well, to be honest, the opponent doesn’t matter – Savarese will take the same approach but use a few different players. I’ll not comment about Dairon Asprilla, just say I told you so.

Here’s what I hope – Diego Valeri gets a start and offers his magic for at least 60 minutes of play – what better way to end a swan song of a season than to go out with his boots on and a sweaty man-bun.

Good luck to Portland.

Best, Chris Gluck

Getting Better as a Youth Soccer Coach

When I was a Soccer Youth Head Coach, in England and America, I sometimes struggled with how to manage the well-intentioned, high level of energy, that parents and/or guardians brought to the Soccer pitch.

At that time I hadn’t concieved my Possession with Purpose analytical approach, but if I had, I would certainly have followed it.

Why, because I think and feel there is great value in understanding some of the basic activities of soccer, mesauring those activities, and using those results to drive improvement.  And the earlier in the development of soccer the better in understanding that while this game is measured by wins, draws, and losses, it isn’t just about scoring goals – it’s about preventing them too.

If you’re an aspiring soccer Head Coach, new or old, I think this approach in leveraging parents/guardians to help you help the team is a great step towards getting better.

If that resonates with you, or even if it doesn’t, I think it’s worthy you take a few minutes to consider what I offer.

Before digging in, you should know up front, this entire approach works from my Strategic Possession with Purpose Family of Indices; the same analysis offered up at the 2014 World Conference on Science and Soccer.

And the same analysis used to evalute professional team performances within Major League Soccer, the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, World Cup 2014 and the UEFA Champions League.

The End State is to measure team performance – ignoring results (points in the league table) in order to track and trend (analyze) individual and team performance with the intent of driving towards improvement.

In statistical terms the relationship (correlation) of my analyses (the Composite PWP Index to Points in the League Table) without counting points is (R2) .86.

In other words 86% of the time my own Index reflects the outputs in the League Table without counting points.

AND…. 86% of the time the winning teams execute the steps within PWP better than the losing team!

With that said here’s what to do.

  1. Split the pitch into thirds and place one parent at the entry point into your own defending final third and one at the entry point into your opponent’s defending final third.
  2. Next, place two parents at the middle of the pitch.
  3. Then place one parent at or near the end line on your defending side of the pitch and then one parent at the same position on the opponent’s defending side of the pitch.
  4. Give each parent a clipboard and pen (waterproof if necessary) and have them begin to count and keep track of certain ‘team’ data points.
  5. The two parents in the center of the pitch are to count and document (all) passes attempted and passes completed for each team (throw-ins and free kicks included) across the entire pitch.  If you have four parents then have two track passes attempted and two track passes completed, one for each team.
  6. The two parents at the entry to the defending final third are to count and document passes attempted and completed (within and into) the defending final third for each team. This also includes all throw-ins, crosses, corners and free kicks that are not specific shots taken on goal.  If you have four parents/guardians then have one each track passes attempted and passes completed separately for each team.
  7. Finally, the two parents on the end lines are to count and document shots taken, shots on goal, and goals scored for each team.

At the end of the game you will have a complete data base (by volume and percentage) that gives you the information to identify your team’s possession percentage, passing accuracy, penetration per possession, ability to generate shots per penetrating possession, what percentage of those shots taken were on goal and what percentage of those shots on goal that scored goals (your team attacking).

And since you collected data on your opponent you will also have all the data on how well your opponent did in those same categories against you (your team defending).

Pretty much meaning you’ve just captured the ENTIRE bell curve of activities I use to measure team performance at the very highest level in the World.

With that data you can now determine, analyze, and document/chart/track ways to improve your attacking as well as defending team performances.  And as each game occurs you continue to build a data.

This information is then used to help you develop new training plans that look to help the team improve where weaknesses exist.

I do not recommend keeping track of individual performance unless you have enough parents and players who are mature enough to deal with individual weaknesses.

This approach should have application at any level of soccer – to include premier, as well as select, recreational, ODP or elsewhere.  As a matter of opinion, I’d offer the closer you are to a higher level of play the more important this approach becomes.

Outcomes from this approach give data to set targets for improvement and the ability to measure the success in that improvement.

In addition, this approach also reinforces that Youth Soccer Development is not all about winning, it’s about getting better while trying to do the things teams need to do in order to win.

If any team wishes to take on this challenge, as a youth club, anywhere in America, send me your data and I will give you one month of analysis that includes preparing products I develop in my analysis of professional football clubs.

I may even publish those products, as examples, for others to learn from in future articles.

And if you are located in the Portland or Beaverton area send me a note and I will make every effort to visit a training session, and or game, to help better explain this approach.

Finally, my general analysis may also include some recommendations on what training plans/programs may help focus your team on key areas to improve.

Bottom line at the bottom:

There is value in understanding and tracking the basic activities that occur in a game of soccer.  It not only helps the players understand their larger role in this team game it also helps the parents understand the greater detail and responsibility you have as a coach to help others get better as a ‘team’.

In case you missed it; this year four Head Coaches from teams who finished near or bottom on the CPWP Strategic Index have already been sacked in MLS:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 31 MLS

And last year five of the six worst teams in performing the PWP steps had the Head Coaches sacked!

End of Season 2013 MLS Coaching Changes

Pretty compelling evidence that teams who perform better have Head Coaches who last longer… if you want to have success as a Youth Head Coach then I strongly suggest you adopt the measurement methods and analysis associated with PWP; with or without using Parents/Guardians.

If there are every any questions please feel free to contact me through Linked-in or through twitter; my twitter is @chrisgluckpwp.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

MLS Playoffs – Predictions with Purpose (Updated)

To the chase…  my PWP Predictability Index leveraging my Possession with Purpose Analysis.  Click here for my latest revision or click here to read the initial revision.

NOTE:  Updates for the Red Bulls v DC United and Sounders v Dallas match are at the end of the article.

The Predictability Index itself is the CPWP Index data minus Goals Scored / Goals Against and is split into two diagrams – Home Predictability versus Away Predictability.

Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams at Home:

CPWP PREDICTABILITY INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 HOME

Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams Away from Home.

CPWP PREDICTABILITY INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 AWAY

Note the significant differences in how the teams are predicted to perform at home versus on the road; four teams really sucked at home this year, while four teams were expected to perform quite well on the road.  

Here’s how it works; I will compare the two digit number of the home team with the two digit number of the away team.

Whichever number is higher it’s that team which is predicted to win… again… based upon their history of team performance in overall attacking and defending, exclusive of goals scored; this year.

And now the PWP Predictions:

FC Dallas versus Vancouver Whitecaps matchup.  FC Dallas at Home (0.00) while Vancouver on the Road (-.11)  FC Dallas wins.

FC Dallas key indicators are ceding possession and creating quick counter-attacking scenarios that use time and space created by Vancouver being too aggressive in attack.

Vancouver key indicators are maintaining patience in possession and not losing position in defending – they are one of the top defending teams in MLS; they will need to be at their best to beat Dallas.

Next up; New York Red Bulls versus Sporting Kansas City.  New York at Home (0.10) while Sporting Kansas City on the Road (0.05) New York wins.

New York key indicators are their attack from a number of different angles.  They are simply one of the top attacking teams in all of MLS – they need to attack, attack, attack, and hope, with all their hope, that they can keep Sporting KC from scoring a goal.

Sporting KC key indicators are their ability to defend; they are still one of the best defending teams in MLS.  If they can control the wide open attack, I’d expect from New York, and their propensity for fouling in their own defending final third, I can see some individual talent from Zusi or some set-pieces giving them the edge to win.

Columbus Crew versus New England Revolution.  Columbus Crew at Home (0.06)  while New England on the Road (-0.08).  Columbus wins game 1.  Columbus Crew on the Road (0.06) while New England at Home (0.23) -> New England wins game 2.  I offer Columbus advances over New England on away goal difference.

Columbus key indicators include being one of the most consistent teams in overall attacking and defending team performance in MLS – with this being a two game set I’d imagine consistency in attacking and penetration as well as consistency in defending the danger spaces will see them through.

New England key indicators are slightly changed with Jones on the pitch – his leadership may give the edge to a Revolution team who are, in my opinion, outgunned in almost every other category.  They are a big under-dog in my opinion but not everybody rates Columbus as strongly as I do…

Real Salt Lake versus LA Galaxy.   Salt Lake at Home (0.33)  while LA Galaxy on the Road (0.12).  RSL wins game 1.   LA Galaxy at Home (0.19)  while Salt Lake on the Road (-0.01).  LA Galaxy wins game 2.  I offer LA Galaxy advance over Real Salt Lake on away goals difference.  

Salt Lake key indicators include, as noted, a stingy defense at home and a propensity to win in Rio Tinto.  They also have pedigree not unlike LA Galaxy, and perhaps an even more veteran line-up when it comes to big games.  Lest we forget Salt Lake could have done much better last year and didn’t – they will have added energy that might surpass the emotions LA bring with them in pushing to help Donovan raise the Cup once more.

LA Galaxy key indicators are pace, possession, penetration and all around purpose that operated at peak performance for almost the entire year.  It should be noted that they didn’t collect the silverware last week and in all likelihood they could stumble here as well as they may look past Real and consider the Cup is theirs…  So arrogance is an enemy as is the continued lack of mental awareness by Gonzalez…

More to follow after the games midweek after seeing who qualifies to play Seattle and DC United…

As for my own personal predictions I can see New York advancing as well as FC Dallas but the Vancouver defense is very good as is the Sporting KC defense.

I will go with Sporting over New York and Vancouver over FC Dallas because I think those team defenses are better – and for me it’s all about defense.

With respect to Columbus – I agree with my PWP Prediction model for that game as well as the game between LA and RSL…  and in this case I also happen to think the defenses for Columbus and LA are better.

More to follow:…

Seattle Sounders at Home (.22) while Dallas on the Road (-.20).  Seattle wins when playing at Home.  FC Dallas at Home (.00) while  Seattle on the Road (-.04).  FC Dallas wins at home.  Seattle advances on away goals difference.

For me, I can see Seattle beating FC Dallas at home and on the road.  Dallas may be a bit tired for game 1 and the Predictability Index hasn’t been built to address ‘tired legs’…

At the end of the day this should be a clean sweep for the Sounders…

DC United at Home (.03) while New York on the Road (-.03).  DC United wins at Home.  New York at Home (.10) while DC United on the Road (-.08).  New York wins at Home.  New York advances on away goals difference.

For me I can see a clean sweep here as well – it may be surprising but I can see New York, riding the wave of Phillips and, most likely, the last season for Thierry Henry, all the way into the Finals.  This is not intended to diss DC United.

They are a very good team but somehow I don’t see the ‘tired legs’ syndrome impacting the Red Bulls as much as Dallas… too much at stake for a team that has invested huge money in their players and program.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

 

@Timbersfc look shoddy in defending as they lose 1-4 to @MNUFC

Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United – Wednesday – 19 Feb 2020.

Prior to kickoff a few minutes were taken to chat with Ebobisse – who is coming off knee surgery this off-season.  I’m sensing Portland wants to continue to build  Jeremy from within – given the off-season signings of forwards he’ll have quite a bit to do to convince Savarese he’s worthy of meaningful minutes.

Anyhow – kickoff begins as the supporter’s cheer completion of the national anthem.

To begin – lots of ping pong with the ball with no sustained possession by either side – early nerves perhaps – until Toye takes an early penetrating pass and loses control in the 18 yard box… sloppy.

So within the first 3 minutes the Timbers back four was easily penetrated – a bit worrying perhaps?

First shot of the game goes to Portland after a quick penetration by Farfan – the finishing touch went awry.  Four minutes in and it’s a very direct game – no building from the back by either side.

As for ball movement – Williamson played a nice ball to Conechny (right side) who failed to finish – the following corner ball resulted in a Minnesota goal kick.

Defensively – Portland is pressing very very high – about 20 yards past the midfield line.  Once Minnesota gets past the midfield line Portland drops back and yields space in the midfield.  That is the type of attacking play I’d like to see for Portland – get the initial penetration into the attacking third – when the opponent settles back return the ball to the midfield and then look to create precise penetration with through balls and quick switches.

As for Minnesota being able to do that against Portland – so far 8 minutes in they haven’t.

With Portland now on the ball I am beginning to see some controlled possession – only to see them lose control as they try to penetrate atop the 18 yard box… this was their greatest weakness last year and so far the midfield (Asprilla, Williamson, and Polo) have not changed that failure.

13 Minutes in and the continued high press for Portland (Zambrano) has unsettled Minnesota with Cascante just missing a strong header following the cross.

More continued high pressure sees Portland begin to take control – developing what I call the ‘umbrella attack’ – that’s where the attacking side passes the ball from left to right and right to left with the intent of finding a penetrating pass into the 18 yard box in between switching sides – THIS is the type of play they need to master in order to beat the low block.

We saw near around the 20 minute mark a great shot by Bonilla after quick left to right movement by Williamson and others – superb save – or – poor shot?  Anyhow, not 10 seconds later Asprilla showed the exact opposite by trying to brute the ball through three defenders…  some guys seem to be learning to attack appropriately while others aren’t!

NOTE 1:  Before I get to far into this match report we shouldn’t forget this is just preseason – and while the Timbers players may be rusty it’s likely the Loons players are as well.

25 minutes in and Portland still continues to press high up the pitch,  yet when Minnesota does gain control in their attacking third the defenders are well positioned to stop penetration – with Duvall showing good tenor as a center-back.

All this aside, at the 30 minute mark Dairon Asprilla showed why this game is so wicked – he’s had poor control and bad passing tendencies but out of nowhere he gets the ball top left of the 18 yard box and finished a textbook strike to the near post… Some say a player who offers a special finish once every two games is worth starting every game – in a league like Major League Soccer where a good group of defenders are not very good – a player like Asprilla is going to get minutes.

All that said refer back to Note 1 above… the player he was going against is not a starting left back in MLS so I suppose it could be expected that a player like Asprilla to own him…

In the 34th minute? If Conechny keeps his feet and simply looks to press and ‘lead the attacker to the sideline’ it’s likely that penetration and goal scored doesn’t happen – so don’t blame the defenders on that one – blame Conechny! 🙂

With that goal scored Minnesota has garned more control and possession – putting Portland on their back heels…  Savarese and the on-field Captain need to have a word with the players as Zambrano got pulled down a few minutes before the half.

Game has reverted back to the sloppy direct play by both teams.

As the first half neared completion Portland again won the ball with the high press – sadly Williamson failed to convert an open shot on goal – if he wants regular season minutes he really needs to finish those shots with a goal.

1st half comments – no sustained possession with purpose – some ball movement left to right and vice versa with one stunning strike by Asprilla and two shots left wanting big time!  In the defensive third I’d offer the played very well – the one play was made by Tomas Conechny which directly lead to the Minnesota goal.  In case you missed it he left his feet with an unwarranted sliding tackle outside the defending third – that loss of defensive control gave the opponent plenty of time to offer a penetrating pass where the Loons player crossed into a disarrayed defensive back four.

I will specifically submit if Conechny does NOT leave his feet and simply ‘contains’ the opponent in that area that penetrating pass never happens…

As the second half got under way Portland has tried to play the ball out from the back – to no great success I might add – luckily Minnesota is just as bad as Portland in breaking down the low block.

The new striker came on – Zarakowsky?

More direct play from Asprilla – and on the counter-attack the Loons go ahead 2-1.  Far too easy and Chacon led that attack again as Duvall looks weak in his challenge atop the 18 yard box.  So that’s Raheem Edwards with a brace for Minnesota.

I’ll swing back to the controlled possession with purpose concept hear – IF Aspilla takes his time – notices there’s nothing on and instead he recycles the ball back to the midfield Portland doesn’t get beaten on that quick counter-attack!

When you possess the ball the opponent doesn’t – this is like a basic tenet in being a better defensive team.

As play continues – Portland looks to sustain possession but fails again and again… the latest loss in possession led to Cascante getting a red card as he found himself out of position when Portland lost the ball.

Too much shoddy defending this second half as the new guy Epps gets soundly beaten on the right side – eventually the overall possession led to goal number three by Chacon.

AS the second half has continued we’ve seen more sloppy possession, a corner going nowhere and Conechny trying to pass the ball through the closed legs of an opponent…  they seem panicked and disarrayed in attack – only near the 79 minute mark did Portland have any sustained possession with even that one ending when Farfan tried to apss the ball through the closed legs of an opponent.

Time passes – Minnesota gets ANOTHER counter-attack goal and it’s 4-1 Minnesota… by the way there was another sliding tackle by a Portland player.

Towards the end of the game (roughly 75 minutes in)  quite a couple of new players came on – and from that point forward this game was over.

In closing: The two guys I paid special attention to tonight.

Conechny certainly dropped in my books – his poor midfield defending
(sliding tackle that missed the target by a huge margin) directly led to Minnesota scoring their first goal.

Farfan – looked good and not out of his depth – all told I think he played well.

Unknown – Krolicki – great left peg – nice strike – technique was superb!  Top flight goal for sure – who is this guy?

Unknown – #66 looked good in positional play – was fully aware of this positioning relative to the opponents.

The others – while Asprilla scored a cracking goal his play during the rest of the game was made up of losing possession and trying far to hard to play direct – if Savarese is REALLY looking to change the tactics up a bit by playing with more unpredictability then Asprilla needs to go… I keep saying that year after year after year.

So far nothing has changed – the tactics remain the same – some possession but nothing sustained – poor defending with many players leaving their feet with sliding tackles.

If Savarese is looking to have changed his tactics you would have thought even the young guys would show some changes too – they haven’t – this team looks predictable #sameasiteverwas.

Best, Chris