Caleb Porter vs Oscar Pareja

Portland Timbers visit FC Dallas

Perhaps the two most prolific head coaches in Major League Soccer Soccer meet again this weekend for what many are hoping will be a precursor to the Western Conference playoff finals this year.

Some will say the gloss and glamour of this match will be lost with Mauro Diaz and Diego Valeri, arguably the two most talented attacking midfielders in MLS, missing the game due to injury.

I disagree – if anything – with both maestro’s missing I think we’re in store for a great game.

Both head coaches need to adjust, or do they?

Pareja more likely has the advantage given Diaz has been out for some time and adjustments will be few, if any.

We already know his method of success is rock-solid – NO team in MLS has executed the counter-attack better.

And with (probably?) the strongest center-back pairing in the league it’s likely the space created atop the 18 yard box, or across the face of the 6 yard box, will be at a minimum.

But Porter has shown in the past he’s got a strong record for in-season adjustments.

The most blindingly obvious was a tactical shift two years ago when Porter finally bent to the will of a few local pundits, and in–house staff, when he shifted Darlington Nagbe inside left.

We saw, even last week, another shift, of sorts, by Porter.

This too, was influenced by player availability.

And while some may be thinking it was the addition of Darren Mattocks, and his game winning goal that led to the victory I’d offer it was a bit more than that…

Dairon Asprilla for one, Vytas for two, the return of the oft-cynical leader/captain Liam Ridgewell three, and the sleeper in all this (me thinks) is how well Jeff Attinella showed in replacing the injured Jake Gleeson.

So on to the kickoff…

Portland: i’d offer Dairon Asprilla starts on the left, with Seb Blanco right, Darlington Nagbe across the middle and Fanendo Adi up top… the back six should remain as last week…

FC Dallas: I’m figuring Urruti up top, with Lamah, Morales, and Akindele in support…  their back six should also remain as last week.

In essence both teams start in a 4-2-3-1 versus a 4-2-3-1… that sees them both convert to a 3-3-4 in attack and a 4-5-1 in defense…  the trick here is the depth of the back four for both teams.

Dallas, at home, will probably play higher up the pitch – with a high press across the midfield – I’d imagine Portland plays slightly deeper hoping to create additional midfield space for retaining possession.

Run of play…

While Porter will spread things wide, on occasion, my instincts are suggesting he’ll look to play down the middle as much as possible.

  • For one, the team has had success in attacking the FC Dallas middle,
  • And two – if Portland keeps possession in the middle of the pitch it means potential turnovers are central to the defending unit and not out wide – which could pull them apart and yield acres of space for Dallas.
  • This does not mean we won’t see crosses – but it might mean we see less advanced penetration by Powell and Vytas.
  • Bottom line here – Portland are the fourth most effective team in seeing successful crosses positively influence the outcome of a game.

With Pareja missing Diaz the central play-maker role falls to Morales, who’s talented – no doubt – but he doesn’t have the nous of Diaz or Valeri…

  • This likely means Dallas play it wide, keep it wide, and play through-balls/gap passes to a laterally running Urruti… or…yes – put in crosses.

  • Like Portland, Dallas have shown successful crosses will positively influence the outcome of a game… they are sixth best in that category this year for MLS.

In closing…

Two things:

  1. Word has it from an associate outside the Portland pundit arena that Sebastian Blanco isn’t quite showing the capacity and capability to play both ways…
    • I’m not sure I agree so my player to watch this week is Seb Blanco…
    • And with Dairon Asprilla, CLEARLY, continuing to show two-way grist, Blanco needs to show more as a DP…

2. It’s early days – I figure Portland comes in and plays to their strengths and challenges Dallas to stop them in as much as Dallas does the same…  regardless of the outcome in this one both teams will learn, adjust and look to their next match as the real chess game…

Best, Chris  @chrisgluckpwp