Gluck: Mistake Free Football? Not Likely

Over the course of a season, in Major League Soccer, it is likely every team will have players and head coaches/managers who make mistakes that cost a team three points or two points.  In a league with a salary cap it’s almost expected.

The critical piece is not making the same mistake twice.

In the Portland Timbers last game against San Jose Earthquakes there were multiple mistakes – not only on the pitch but off the pitch.

To say the tenor of the game was etched in stone before kickoff isn’t fair as the game was yet to be played and the opportunity, for individual player excellence, was there.

But as shown in yielding two (soft) first half goals and an early second half goal, player excellence did not come to the fore… instead we saw disjointed passing and a defensive outcome similar to the days of Portland under the leadership of John Spencer.

What I’d offer, after witnessing that game, is Portland is NOT a two wing football club.  Their survival, and great results, stem from a strong attacking center with support from the wings.

Perhaps put another way – there are issues with this football club when both Diego Valeri AND Darlington Nagbe are missing… And given Nagbe is likely to get more playing time with the US Men’s National Team this year and next – it’s likely to happen more often than supporters like.

So about the other night…

I’d offer both Dairon Asprilla AND Darren Mattocks shouldn’t start together on the wings; one needs to give way to a player who’s a connector.

And since Ned Grabavoy retired, the next player up is Jack Barmby; a left footed player who can drift inside – kinda similar to Darlington Nagbe but not as gifted in dribble penetration… yet?

Some may disagree, but myself and at least one other previous Timber player, with pedigree, believe he’s shown the grist, grit, and a willingness to take players on, while offering an ability to drift inside and show good positional play/awareness, along with vision, nous, and a great first touch.

If you recall when Barmby entered the game, followed up about 10 minutes later, by Arboleda, the complexion of the midfield changed… for the better.  Even Porter, in his post game presser, acknowledged the substitutions made a positive difference in the game.

And while some may say Barmby forced the issue, on occasion, I’d submit he did that with the intent to force opponent mistakes in the Timbers attacking half, not due to slack play. It’s also worth mentioning in his 33 minutes of play he had just as many recoveries as Asprilla and Mattocks combined.

All told he offered risky play in attack – perhaps not ideal when it’s 1-1, but when down 3-nil it’s a worthy gamble; especially in the attacking half of the pitch.

From a tactical standpoint I’m not sure that clears the plate of mistakes.

I’m wondering about the rationale for removing Dairon Asprilla, first, over Darren Mattocks.

I felt, saw, and sensed Asprilla played better and even though statistics never tell the whole story they do tell a story.

  • Previously (against FC Dallas) Mattocks, was a second choice starter behind Asprilla, yet in this game Mattocks saw three times more of the ball than Asprilla.
  • Mattocks offered 21 passes with seven incomplete (four in the defending half) compared to just seven passes offered by Asprilla with one incomplete.
  • In defending the wings, San Jose penetrated (roughly 66% of the time) down Mattocks side; a high percentage like that usually indicates the opponent sees that wing as the weaker of the two wings.
  • That consistent wing penetration, down Mattocks side, led to 66% (six of their nine) of their key passes originating from that side.

So why was Dairon Asprilla pulled first?

Perhaps Asprilla was pulled first simply because Porter has greater confidence in Mattocks since Darren has history with him through Akron?  It wouldn’t be the first time some have felt Porter shows preference to players he coached in Akron.

It’s not hard to forget Steve Zakuani or Ben Zemanski getting meaningful minutes when others may have warranted more play.

However viewed, Portland attempted to attack down a less productive wing and that volume of ball play, on the left, directly supported the attacking strategy of San Jose.

What’s a positive from this substitution?  

When Porter made the decision to bring in Jack Barmby that signaled, to me, Porter recognized his two wing attack wasn’t working.

In closing.

I’m not sure what the health status of Nagbe and Valeri will be this weekend against a very strong attacking side like Atlanta United.

I’d venture to offer the Timbers won’t show a two-wing attack and you can bet they’ll be thinking defense first.

If Nagbe and Valeri are both out perhaps we see Jack Barmby start?  Or… perhaps we see Porter go with Amobi Okugo, Diego Chara, and David Guzman with a slightly more narrow midfield presence headed by Sebastian Blanco?

Best, Chris

@chrisgluckpwp

 

 

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