Will 2015/2016 MLS Champs be Chumps by the End of this Season?

The Portland Timbers have opened their season no different than the four previous seasons under Caleb Porter – on their back foot.  But is there something different about this years’ team that may cause one to wonder how this season ends?

Yes…

Here’s why – and yes it’s down to statistics.  At no time in the previous history of the Timbers have they started so low when it comes to statistical team performance.  Evidence for your consideration is provided below:

 

Note this is big picture – what I feel and think the senior leaders should be viewing to get a feel for how the Timbers are working, as a team, versus the quality and quantity behind those numbers.  Have no fear I’ll get there too..  Let’s not kid ourselves – the Timbers have access to this information and much more – so this shouldn’t be new news to the Timbers front office; it should be an early warning sign of a potential earthquake that could shake the foundation of this team.

For now let’s take a look at what this data offers…

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So with those big picture stats offered – here’s some deeper grist for grinding the teeth if you’re a Timbers supporter:

Quantity:

Passing volume in total:

Passes outside the attacking final third:

Passes within and into the attacking final third:

Shots taken:

Shots on goal:

Goals scored:

 

Quality:

Possession percentage:

Passing accuracy:

Percentage of passes within and into the attacking final third:

Percentage of shots taken per completed pass within and into the attacking final third:

Percentage of shots on goal per shots taken:

Percentage of goals scored per shots on goal:

 

Predictability:

I don’t dig into this part of possession with purpose too much as it’s more relative to betting than anything else.  But I do think it’s worthy to show others what the Timbers predictability index offers.

As a reminder the PWP Predictability Index is the PWP Index (minus) all activities relative to a goal scored – a real prediction model does not use the projected end-state data to predict the future end-state – it uses the data leading up to the end-state to predict the future end-state.  So all those who track Expected Goals – it’s not a prediction model at all…

 

Now the tough questions:

Or………  Is Caleb Porter really just tinkering as he prepares the Timbers for CCL and the stretch run through the hot part of the season?

Or………  Is Caleb Porter human, like the rest of us, and he’s scratching his head as much as we are about what isn’t working this year that worked previously?

As a previous youth head coach and general manager I think it’s a little of both – there are times, early in the season, at any level, where it’s worthy to try out different things.  An offshoot on doing that is the team gets to gel and work out kinks that are likely to help them take more points as the season progresses – or in the case of the Timbers – not only help them make the top six in the Western Conference but also help them in CCL.

That said I do think it’s worthy to bring up one point about this year versus last year – Jorge Villafana is missing.

I don’t say this to personally dig anyone this year – instead two diagrams for your consideration – on how I think last year is different from this year:

Left fullback area in red for last year – a no go spot for most teams in attack – i.e. where Portland was inordinately strong in defending.  Ther ewere games last year where Jorge Villafana had virtually no defensive touches in a game – this year the left fullback position cannot say the same.

So with the opponent now having a complete width of the pitch to use the Timbers defense is stretched – not unnaturally compared to any other team – but unnaturally compared to last years’ team…

And that’s why I think their is considerable cause for  concern this year – the Timbers simply don’t have the shut down capability on either wing to decrease the size of the attacking space the opponent has available.  And with that normal size of space the opponents are now getting better shots on goal.

Path forward – with Jorge Villafana out I am stead

 

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