Well the last few years have been quite a disappointment with MLS changing their soccer statistics format and other public sites no longer offering the key statistics I need in order to provide the United States soccer supporters a worthy Index that rates teams based upon controlled possession, penetration, creation, and shot taking.
But that’s changed, after a considerable review of publicly made available soccer statistics I’ll now be able to provide some cutting edge team performance analyses; to include the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, at least for the United States.
What does this mean? Well, for those who’ve previously followed my analyses I’ll now be able to provide you a good forecasting tool to help you with betting. And, likely, some good team performance info that will help you determine what individual players may help you on your fantasy teams.
I wish you all good luck and good fortune next year.
Best regards, Chris
Ever since their thrashing at the hands of Seattle Sounders around mid-season this year the Portland Timbers have been a team on a mission. Win, Win, and then Win again.
No team in MLS has done better since August 21st than Portland… No one.
Why is this and how, exactly, did that manifest itself in Colorado Thanksgiving day yesterday?
Well, it WASN’T down to Expected Goals (like www.mlssoccer.com Charles Boehm offers) just exactly how ignorant does he think the American soccer supporter really is, lest I forget about all you “full kit wankers”? Nor was it down to failed progression in penetrating possession by Colorado (based off statistics).
In case you didn’t know “Expected Goals” is NOT a statistical forecasting tool. Sorry, I just can’t NOT diss any writer who uses a statistical tool that has absolutely NO CORRELATION to points earned/lost…
In short……….. It was down to grist, grit, and nous knowing that set-pieces can win games. And with their star player taking a fall from a hamstring injury it was clear that grist was their avenue to victory.So what’s next for Portland? Well, to be honest, the opponent doesn’t matter – Savarese will take the same approach but use a few different players. I’ll not comment about Dairon Asprilla, just say I told you so.
Here’s what I hope – Diego Valeri gets a start and offers his magic for at least 60 minutes of play – what better way to end a swan song of a season than to go out with his boots on and a sweaty man-bun.
Good luck to Portland.
Best, Chris Gluck
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.
I suppose there’s a fan base out there that does – but as in years’ past the quality of soccer in our country remains mediocre at best. The most obvious example being the large quantity of MLS players playing for our national team – which got hammered recently (beaten across every inch of the pitch) by Canada; another mediocre soccer nation.
Five years ago I lambasted US Soccer for keeping Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach after the paltry performance in WC 2014.
Nevermind the HUGE tactical error he made in taking Graham Zusi off the pitch and replacing him with Omar Gonzalez – the defensive area of the pitch Graham Zusi was responsible for was the exact area Cristian Ronaldo delivered his game tying cross after Michael Bradley (probably the worst controlled possession-based midfielder the United States has ever fielded) lost the ball in the midfield.
Three years ago I performed an analysis on which American should head coach our squad – my selection was Jesse Marsch – Gregg Berhalter didn’t even finish in the top four. Marsch since moved on to coaching in Europe while Arena, and then Berhalter, took the helm for our country.
Arena, and our national team were humiliated as they failed to qualify for WC 2018 and Berhalter has been most recently humiliated in his loss to Canada.
Five years ago I offered this tactical observation – the United States will NEVER be a great counterattacking team until AFTER they can first learn to dominate a game through possession.
You simply can’t be any good at threatening a counterattack without first mastering passing and controlling the game in the middle of the pitch. This isn’t rocket science here.
- It is basic.
- It is fundamental.
EVERY World Cup winner has always shown the capacity and capability to play controlled possession-based soccer. EVERYONE of them.
Tactically, NOTHING has changed for the US Men’s National Team.
A comprehensive championship for Chelsea and while the Blues were singing this year plenty of teams weren’t.
Here’s my statistical tale of the tape in Possession with Purpose – leading off with the most important question – is the Index relevant, and if so, how and with resepct to what?
The Index speaks for itself – there is simply no greater publicly generated Index that more accurately represents the English Premier League Table (without including points earned) than this Index… a .94 Correlation Coefficient is simply stunning and while I won’t offer the Indices (here) from the Bundesliga or La Liga, both of those Indices ended up showing an “r” of .94 and .93 respectively.
Need to fix the typo……….. should be “r’ instead of “r2″….
Some may disagree with this but I sense it’s true – not just from what I’ve seen but statistically as well.
At no point in the history of Major League Soccer have we seen more teams win with more controlled possession; a trend occurring in Europe (in the strongest domestic leagues) a swell as internationally during the World Cup.
As each year passes better coaching, better analyses, better scouting, and better money is finding its way into Major League Soccer; nevermind that some of the better coaches are finding there way out too… Martinez, Berhalter, and Marsch to name a few.
I’d also offer the base of the training pyramid is starting to get better. Having recently attend USSF coaches training I can offer the ‘play – practice – play’ approach is working; at least from my first person view.
No longer do we see pedantic ‘drills’ set up in a non-soccer playing environment. It helps no-one to teach a player how to turn the ball if they don’t get why, when and where that turn is best suited.
While many offer the US Men’s National Team needs to be better in attacking, or defending, or showing more “courage” the real issue remains, and always has, one of possession.
If you can’t (mentally and physically) control the game by showing you have solid control of the ball you’ll simply never ever be good enough to win at the very highest levels.
Yes, they are teams who win on the counter-attack – we’ve seen Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, France, Croatia, and others play winning soccer through counter-attacking football.
But each of those teams, when needed, will control the game through controlled possession – coaches and organizations who play that style recognize/understand these basic concepts:
- The precision and control you need with your first touch in counter-attacking is harder to execute than playing possession-based soccer.
- The precision and control you need to complete accelerated/difficult passing angles in counter-attacking are harder to create and execute than playing possession-based soccer.
- If you can’t accomplish those two simple aspects of the game (the most frequently used aspects of the game) in slow motion you’ll simply never-ever be able to accomplish those two simple aspects playing quickly.
In other words it’s HARDER to play creative and effective counter-attacking soccer than it is to play controlled, possession-based soccer.
You can’t be good at “B” until you are good at “A”.
This isn’t rocket science, you don’t need a bunch of statistics to tell you this – all you need to do is watch player movement with and without the ball to see if the current national team squad has the talent, nous, mentality, to play patient, controlled, possession-based soccer.
If they don’t, stop selecting them or retrain them – go back to square one and learn to play the frigging game appropriately. Even now, as a member of the Portland Timbers Youth Coaching System we are advocating controlled, possession-based soccer by playing from the back. Professional teams recognize this – why the hell doesn’t US Soccer?
Let me put it another way – the word ‘entitled’ surfaces a lot in our country when it comes to youth soccer – the pay to play program has parents convinced their child is entitled to start/play because the parent pays good money.
The same principle applies to the US Men’s National Team only with a twist…
US Soccer feels and thinks they are ‘entitled’ to play the most dynamic and most difficult style of soccer because they’ve spent an appropriate amount of money on athletes
good enough to go directly to playing counter-attacking soccer because they have spent the appropriate amount of money in their program to warrant playing that style; i.e. the knuckleheads running the program think they are ‘entitled’ to play the most dynamic and difficult style of soccer because they’ve paid good money
– players have ‘gone through the system’ and paid good money to get to the level they are – but the overwhelming majority of those players are NOT GOOD ENOUGH to play in Europe.
Sorry it’s been awhile since offering up results on Possession with Purpose analysis – I’ll try to put together something here in the near future.
Between now and then here’s a link to my latest efforts in doing podcasts and appearing (monthly) on the TV Show Soccer City PDX:
Yellowcarded Pod (Stephen Brandt and I regularly talk footy with guests ranging across teh entire spectrum of football in the US; featured guests have included Chris Canetti (President Houston Dynamo), Bill Peterson (NASL Commissioner), Preki, along with a large number of Head Coaches and staff across MLS, NASL, USL, PDL, NPSL, and College Soccer).
Rose City Soccer Show – A panel discussion about the Portland Timbers, panelists include myself, Kip Kesgard, Will Conwell, and our moderator Dan Adams. We dig deep, tactically and strategically, into the Timbers while also looking to offer a blend of humor to go along with our combined passion about football and the Portland Timbers.
Soccer City PDX – New this year for me is appearing as a TV pundit, along with Kip Kesgard and Will Conwell, on the Comcast Sports Northwest. Like our Rose City Soccer Show the three of us offer up our thoughts on the latest topics in Soccer City (Portland). The show, superbly hosted by Dan Sheldon, airs monthly on cable TV, parts of that show can be watched by clicking on the link provided – air time on TV is the first Wednesday of each month throughout the summer.