Gluck: Tea Leaves on Timbers Traveling to Toronto

Is this a likely pre-cursor to the MLS Championship Game?

I’m not sure, but given the wild west, and more predictable east, it isn’t beyond reason to think so.  In preparing my information for your consideration here’s a link to my Total Soccer Index: 

The Science (Attacking): 

Toronto at home compared with Portland on the road.

The part of Possession with Purpose that stands out first is ‘penetration’.

  • Out of an equal amount of possession and passing accuracy for both teams Toronto shows a greater (much greater) edge in penetration; the difference is striking; almost 20% more penetration per total possession than Portland.
  • That considerable advantage in increased penetration leads to a 10% increase in the precision (putting shots on goal) followed by another 10% increase in finishing.
  • Twenty six goals scored at home for Toronto vs seventeen goals scored on the road for Portland.  Not only is Toronto’s quality better; their quantity is too…

The Art:

It is likely Toronto will penetrate more often and offer up more shots than Portland – meaning a reasonable game plan for Portland will be to cede some space up top (maybe after the first 15 minutes) and then look to clog the middle and defensive third of the pitch.. relying solely on the counter-attack to get a goal, or two…

The Science (Defending):

Like the attacking side of the equation; the part of Possession with Purpose that stands out first on how opponents attack against these two teams is penetration.

  • Out of equal amounts of possession and passing accuracy by opponents Portland shows opponents have greater amounts of penetration.
  • Opponents of Portland see a 10% increase in precision (shots on goal) and a 20% increase in finishing (goals scored against) than Toronto opponents.
  • All told opponents have scored 23 goals against Portland, versus just seven for Toronto.
  • Portland opponents see an increase in quality as well as quantity; matching exactly the characteristics of how Toronto attacks at home!

The Art:

It would appear penetration is the key for both teams… therefore, trying to regain possession of the ball in the attacking and middle third will be crucial in order to disable a quick counter-attack when the ball is lost.

As much as it pains me to offer this – Bradley is known for coughing up the ball in the middle third of the pitch – I’d expect both David Guzman or Diego Chara to pressure Bradley whenever he has the ball.

Bottom line:  If Portland scores (at all) they will REALLY need to protect that lead and that includes protecting the wings from overload by Toronto.

Total Soccer Index:  Final Thoughts

If you’re a betting person – it’s likely Toronto win by at least one goal – if not two… but as we’ve seen this year “parity” rules in this league.

And even though the eastern conference seems to show greater strength in possession with purpose competitive conditions of the wild west may better suit Portland in a game like this.

Questions:  It’s the fantastic four of both teams that will make the difference in the run of play.

  • How well will Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Victor Vazquez, and Michael Bradley work against a healthy Timbers defense?
  • Can Toronto’s defense control the attacking nous of Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, and Sebastian Blanco along with the physically brutal aspect Fenando Adi brings as a true #9?

Set pieces win games…

The magic of one player, with one touch, that leads to one strike, and one brilliant goal awaits… as Diego Valeri, like set pieces, wins games too…

Best, Chris

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Re-tweets are not rude… 🙂

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