@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

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