Gluck: Is it Too Early for a “Must Win”?

Mathematically, yes…  psychologically… probably not.

The Portland Timbers have two wins, three draws, and five losses in their last ten games with a season goals against average of 1.66; that’s higher than last years’ record setting 1.55.

  • Last year (after just four games) the Timbers showed some early season trends  “Is it too Early to Worry? that are surfacing again this year.
  • Last week  Delicate Decisions in Defending” I touched on the need for Caleb Porter to make some defensive changes.
  • He did.  Zarek Valentin ‘a more possession-based player’ was inserted into the lineup for Alvas Powell.  In all, not a bad performance.
  • The result, however, saw the Timbers lose and cede a set piece goal just four minutes into the game.
  • Question – was that one defensive change enough before Larrys Mabiala, a center-back (signed from Kayserispor, Turkey) arrives?

I’m not sure.

Porter was accurate in offering the attack created chances and the run of play in defending, was solid.

But frustration can breed cynicism, and while I do believe the Timbers upped their game last weekend the cynic in me wonders if the close game was more a reflection of better defending or of an opponent who simply isn’t good at scoring goals?

Seattle average just 1.3 goals per game this year and have four multiple goal scoring games – none of them in their last five.

You decide.


Coming into this game the Timbers will be without the services of Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman; here’s a link on how successful they were without Darlington earlier this season: Dealing without Darlington“.

The two-wing attack didn’t work.

That said, a positive reminder on some successes from last year.

At no point, in 2016, did the Timbers ever lose, or even draw, at home, when ceding 55% possession (or greater) to the opponent.

(Six games played – Six games won  ///   12 goals scored – three goals against)

Their opponent Friday night, San Jose; is a team who fell victim to that success twice last year.

That being said – there’s two teams who play, not one.  And it’s likely Dom Kinnear, and his Earthquakes, have the same statistics and video to learn from as Portland.

In other words…

Motivation for San Jose, to fix what went pear-shaped last year, will be at its maximum.

Finishing touches:

The Timbers will most likely cede some possession – can’t be helped really with both Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman off the pitch.

  • This statistic is subjective though.
  • The Timbers track possession but more as a formality not as target that must be reached.
  • If Jack Barmby starts, along Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, and Lawrence Olum it is likely some form of holding midfield possession will occur in the San Jose defending half.

  • And the less time the Timbers keep possession of the ball in their defending half (if San Jose applies pressure in that area) the better.

Wing play – leveraged in trying to set up success down the middle with both Adi and Valeri being the key players to strike and score.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zarek Valentin as the starting right full-back but Powell offers great speed and San Jose have some quick players.  Whoever starts I’d venture they don’t extend themselves to far forward.

A passionate Diego Chara who’s slightly more controlled than previously.

A tight back four relying on support from the midfield; especially in closing down the wings as San Jose will look to cross the ball.

Supreme mental focus in defending without the ball; a draw this game will not bode well with many; especially a high scoring draw…

Best, Chris

Re-tweets are welcomed @chrisgluckpwp