Tagged: FC Dallas

Gluck: Focus on the present – @Timbersfc v @FCDallas

Many times in a head coaching career you’re confronted with situations beyond your control – as in players will be injured or missing and those issues have nothing to do with you or your coaching staff.

As such, you make do with the best you have and hope that ‘consistency of previous purpose’ takes over.

I’m hopeful we see this as Portland hosts FC Dallas at Providence Park this weekend.

For me ‘previous purpose’ means:

  • Defense First – In the last three years FC Dallas have had the greatest efficiency in G/FTP (goals scored per final third pass offered); 1st in 2014, 2015, and 9th in 2016.
  • Bottom line up front:  It’s absolutely critical the Timbers midfield support the back four in preventing such an effective and efficient attacking team like Dallas.

If there’s a professional soccer team in MLS that matches the best style and tactics of the US Men’s National Team it’s FC Dallas.

When looking to replace Bruce Arena after World Cup 2018 look no further than Oscar Pareja.

This game is as much a match of players on the pitch as it is coaches on the sideline.

Caleb Porter needs to be at his best in game management.

Stray voltage:

Amobi Okugo or Lawrence Olum?  I’m not sure it matters – both have showed well in my view and both have showed well with their previous teams – I like both these players.

If the game opens up – which I hope it doesn’t – might this be an opportunity for Victor Arboleda or Jeremy Ebobisse?

Alvas Powell – healthy discussion on twitter this past week.  Many viewpoints – none ‘wrong’… what we do know is he doesn’t provide leadership.

If you’re a manager that usually means he’s not a good follower either.

  • That may be harsh – but in today’s environment 95% of the game is mental; being a good follower is critical to being a good leader and vice versa.
  • A loan spell with another team (like what the Timbers have done with Lucas Melano) may do him some good… .otherwise my sensing is his time as a starter has come and gone.

Liam Ridgewell – publicly criticizing his leadership was worthy.  Cynical play undermines leadership in so many ways.  Last week Ridgewell, by most accounts, pulled his socks up and led from the back.  He must repeat that effort every single game; there is no choice – he is the Captain.

Bottom line at the bottom:

The psychological ‘must win’ atmosphere is diminished (for now at least).

There are no excuses a team can’t win because players being absent.

It’s a squad – if you build a good squad absences only mean a slightly different tweak in tactics to maximize other players strengths not normally relied on.

For this weekend a great result is three points – a good result is one point.  The atmosphere of a ‘must win home game’ will rear its ugly head again if things go pear-shaped.

Defense first – worth repeating because a clean sheet is critical when two of your best midfielders are missing.

Portland Timbers take on FC Dallas:  Saturday, June 10th – Providence Park 7:30 PM

Broadcast KPTX

Best, Chris



The Ride Continues – Timbers MLS Championship Run


“The atmosphere in Providence Park is the best atmosphere in MLS” – attributed to Brad Freidel

Wow – what a game and what a season so far!

We’ve seen some pretty remarkable events this last year – suffering an all time low with a crushing 5-nil loss to LA Galaxy in June and then a diametrically opposed (perhaps best ever) 5-2 victory against the very same LA Galaxy not four months later…   parity anyone?

So where do we stand today?

Just one game, one tactically sound game, from advancing to the MLS Championship…


It’s worth a look again!  Dairon Asprilla’s rope.

Okay, that said, it’s time to move on…

There’s a job to do and it isn’t finished; cinch the ropes a bit tighter and go for another ride.

In mounting that bull recall this one word that has best described MLS this year – parity…

Yes, the very same word that applied to the Timbers getting into this position is the very same word we should consider as this weekend approaches.

Don’t be misled by that 3-1 win… FC Dallas are a dangerous team, a very dangerous team.

And in understanding that, Caleb Porter has much to consider in how he sets the tone and tenor of his team this week.

I’d offer there are some very tough questions he and his staff will be asking themselves as they prepare.

Diego Valeri

Does Diego Valeri start?  

While many, if not most, probably don’t think this is a worthy question I do.

If Diego Valeri doesn’t start Caleb probably runs with the same eleven that got him the three goals and the win this past weekend (relying on the old adage that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it).

On the other hand Diego Valeri is… well… one of the best players in a Timbers uniform.  So – to be realistic – it’s likely Diego Valeri starts.

Caleb Porter

In considering that, how does that change the midfield with respect to running a single pivot versus double pivot?

This is a tricky question because the maturity of Darlington Nagbe (in playing box-to-box) kinda means the addition of Diego Valeri doesn’t mean Caleb is overtly committing to 5 attackers.  For me it really means Darlington Nagbe kinda takes on a quasi Jack Jewsbury/Will Johnson/Diego Valeri role.

Nagbe Bags a Whale of a Goal

In other words he leverages his skills as a great passer, with a great first touch, plus he uses his innate ability to turn and make space for himself (as well as others) while also showing improved recovery capabilities in addition to better vision from a deeper position; recall those through-balls he offered to Lucas Melano in the first 15-20 minutes.

What the change to a single pivot really means, for me, is a slightly different workload for Diego Chara.


How is it different?

I’m not sure I can completely scratch the itch on this one given I don’t know the in-depth tactics but it appeared to me that both Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury had a rotating leadership role in closing down the wings when Dallas penetrated the final third.

Who lead that initial response looked to me to depend on which player was best situated.  In other words if Jack was deeper and closer to the area being penetrated he closed down first; if Diego was closest he responded first.

Whoever was second took the role of managing the space around the corners or middle of the 18 yard box as well as providing direct support if the other player got beaten.

With Jewsbury off the pitch, and Darlington Nagbe usually working a little bit further up the pitch, it means Diego Chara will probably have the lead on closing down no matter which side of the pitch is penetrated.

This, in turn, probably means Diego will have more of a sustain and contain role as opposed to trying to regain possession at the earliest opportunity.

That sustain and contain role then allows Wallace/Melano/Asprilla/Nagbe to then take on the secondary response role that Jewsbury would normally be asked to do.

So in going back to try and answer the question on running a single pivot versus double pivot it gets even more complicated as the wingers are likely to have a different role as well.

Which leads to this question.

Lucas Melano

Does Lucas Melano start in lieu of Rodney Wallace?

Before answering the question I think it’s worthy to note the value Melano added in attacking and defending without knowing his prescribed role last game.

All told he made some superb penetrating runs and provided good support in defending behind the ball – not a bad game even though he had another great opportunity to score.

Bottom line is Lucas used his strengths to create and make space for others while also adding value in applying some forward pressure that lead to a poor pass by Dallas, which in turn led to that golazo by Asprilla; sometimes the success of a player is not measured by goals but by how he helps create and make space for others to score goals.

That said we still need to try and answer the question… 

For me, if Caleb runs the single pivot Rodney Wallace gets the head nod – if Jack Jewsbury starts in lieu of Diego Valeri then Lucas Melano gets the head nod.

Is it as simple as that?   Probably not, but with Asprilla/Nagbe/Wallace/Melano all having increased defensive responsibilities with the single pivot, and Diego comes in to add a player who is more attack minded than defensive minded, it really kinda means Wallace is more likely to start given he shows a bit more grist in defending.

Said another way – Caleb needs to sustain a balance in attacking and defending; that balance is more attack minded with both Melano and Valeri on the pitch; so…..  Rodney should get the call as it’s likely Diego Valeri starts.

Liam Ridgewell

Is Liam Ridgewell injured and can he play?

I don’t have the answer to that but here’s what I would offer.

If Ridgewell is slightly injured, and there is a chance he might have to be subbed given a recurrence of that injury, I’d offer serious consideration is given that he doesn’t start.

That may not be the popular move but if you, as a Head Coach, can save a substitution for a game state not intended, then going with the known is usually better than going with the unknown.

In closing:

In circling back to FC Dallas – they remain a dangerous team.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oscar Pareja flip which sides Castillo and Barrios attack from to show a different look in attack.

Dallas love to penetrate the wings and create opportunities for cut-back passes into open space atop or around the corners of the 18 yard box or penalty spot.

And if they weren’t successful in doing that with Barrios on the left side last game it seems reasonable they’ll try him on the right side this game.

Bottom line here, for the Timbers, it’s all about managing the space and time when FC Dallas have the ball – figure defense first with a tangible attack that creates solid opportunities to score goals.

Have a great thanksgiving weekend and get ready to ride the bull again!

If interested here’s some additional thoughts on the Timbers match against Dallas as part of the Yellowcarded Podcast.

Finally, here’s more thoughts on this game from myself, Kip Kesgard, and Will Conwell and our Rose City Soccer Show.

Best, Chris

FC Dallas; are they for real this year? You Bet – and here’s why…

Coming off a comprehensive thrashing where FC Dallas dominated to San Jose (5-nil this past weekend) Dallas has thrown down the gauntlet that the woeful run last year, and missing the playoffs, is not a likely scenario this year.

And some might offer that San Jose aren’t exactly ‘top flight’ this year – I disagree – up until this last weekend, the Earthquakes were one of the top five defensive teams in MLS – read here for those details…

Possession with Purpose:  So just how comprehensive have FC Dallas been, compared to others this year, in both team attack and team defense?  

CPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

CPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

Fourth best in all of MLS – lagging behind Sporting, LA Galaxy, and Seattle…

Before digging in there have been some questions offered up in the past that folks might think this Index is biased towards ‘possession-based’ teams.

I think the results you read here should pretty much prove that is not the case.

I can’t find a better example, this year, where the lack of possession and passing accuracy, for a team, has absolutely nothing to do with how effective they are in this Index.

Follow along for the examples and strategic team performance data as I show you why…

Attacking Possession with Purpose (APWP) Index:

APWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

Second best in all of Major League Soccer…

Peeling back on the ‘why’…

  • Possession Percentage – FCD are 5th worst, on average, at 47.06%
  • Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch – FCD are 7th worst, on average, at 76.03%
  • Passing Accuracy within the Final Third – See Below…
  • Percentage of Successful Passes Final Third Week 23
  • FCD are 3rd worst, on average, at 61.72%
  • Penetration Percentage per Completed Passes – FCD are 2nd worst, on average, at 19.74%
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Possession – FCD are 4th best, on average, at 20.71% (the tide begins to turn)….
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – FCD are 5th best, on average, at 38.35%… the tide continues…
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – FCD are BEST in MLS, on average, at 44.09%…

All told – Possession and Passing Accuracy, both within and outside the Final Third, are simply not great indicators for how well this team attacks.

Bottom line at the bottom with respect to attack – it simply doesn’t matter how this team gets the ball into, or around the 18 yard box, when they do – they are dangerous… full stop.

Before moving on to Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP) two other views for your consideration:

Here’s how those same APWP team performance indicators look when their opponent averages 85% passing accuracy or more:

  • Possession Percentage – FCD average 42.56% Possession; 6th best
  • Passing Accuracy – FCD average 79.48% accuracy; 4th best
  • Percentage of Successful Passes in the Final Third 64.38%; 3rd best
  • Penetration Percentage per Complete Passes average 21.50%; 6th best
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Percentage average 21.85%; 2nd best
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken average 38.05%; 6th worst
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal average 40.37%; 5th best

All told – it would appear that when the opponent is better in their overall passing accuracy FC Dallas are less effective in scoring goals but their average points per game against teams who meet or exceed 85% passing accuracy is 2.33; compared to 1.63 as a whole.

Bottom line here is that better teams (in passing and possession) will NOT do better against FC Dallas than teams who are weaker in passing and possession.

So here’s the APWP information for teams who average 68% passing accuracy or less against FC Dallas:

  • Possession Percentage – FCD average 58.75% Possession; 2nd worst
  • Passing Accuracy – FCD average 74.57% accuracy; 5th worst
  • Percentage of Successful Passes in the Final Third 62.34%; 7th worst
  • Penetration Percentage per Complete Passes average 13.99%; worst
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Percentage average 20.83%; 3rd best
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken average 50.00%; best
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal average 60.00%; best

All told – it would appear that when the opponent is far worse in overall passing accuracy FC Dallas are pretty much unstoppable; they average 3.00 points per game when the opponent is piss-poor in passing…

Bottom line here, as noted earliet, FC Dallas are dangerous in attack no matter how successful or unsuccessful their opponent is in passing – so how can they be beat?

Here’s their DPWP Index – is their a clue here on solving the FC Dallas attack?

DPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

I’m not so sure.  They are tenth best in all of Major League Soccer…. not really earth shattering – nor pathetic… but perhaps some clues to beating them?

Peeling back on the ‘why’… recognizing that passing accuracy, by the opponents, is not really a good indicator on how to beat them.

  • Possession – Opponents of FC Dallas average 52.94% possession; that is the 5th highest amount of possession ceded in MLS
  • Passing Accuracy within the FC Dallas Defending Final Third – Opponents average 68.16% passing accuracy within the Dallas Final Third; that is the highest opponent average in passing accuracy of any team in MLS
  • Put another way here’s the diagram on Opponent Unsuccessful passes in the Dallas defending Final Third:
  • Percentage of Unsuccessful Passes Final Third Week 23
  • In other words the opponents are very successful in completing passes within the FC Dallas defending third
  • Shots Taken per penetrating possession – Opponents of FC Dallas average 18.89% – 9th best in MLS in limiting their opponents Shots Taken per penetration
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – Opponents of FC Dallas average 34.42% – that is the 5th highest percentage yielded in MLS
  • Where it counts – Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – Opponents of FC Dallas average 25.91%; that is the 3rd lowest success rate by opponents in MLS.

I don’t see compelling information here, pointing one direction or another, that would show team weakness in defending.

All told – Dallas appears to cede possession, penetration and higher rates of passing accuracy to their opponents than other teams in MLS.

Bottom line here is they are average/solid in defense…  but a good average – no real compelling clues in this data to be sure.

If there’s a chink in the armor perhaps it’s in Red Cards or Fouls within their own Defending Final Third?

Red Cards:

  • FC Dallas have the second highest total of Red Cards of any team in MLS (eight) – only Sporting KC are worse (with 12).
  • Their sum of Points won is seven when garnering a Red Card and 1.17 Points per game
  • Their sum of Points won is 32 when not garnering a Red Card and 1.78 Points per game

Fouls in their own Defending Final Third:

  • FC Dallas average the fourth highest number of Fouls in the Defending Final Third (3.29)
  • Their sum of Points won is four when conceding five or more fouls in their own defending Final Third; 1.33 Points per game
  • Their sum of Points won is 35 when conceding four or fewer fouls in their own defending Final Third; 1.67 Points per game

Bottom line here is yes, there is a weakness; a huge weakness in my opinion.  When Dallas get Red Cards or when they exceed five fouls within their own defending Final Third they are very (highly) likely to lose… (drop points).

In Closing…

In attack it’s pretty clear to me that this team is all about goals scored regardless of what approach is used by either team…

In addition – it’s also very clear to me that when FC Dallas lose they lose because they beat themselves…

I’m not sure I’ve seen any team this year provide such a clear message than when they lack discipline they lose – and when they display and execute discipline they win…

Bottom line at the bottom:  If a team were looking to win against Dallas I would have thought their best bet is to make it a physical game that includes a wee bit of psychological drama… ‘get into the head of the Dallas players and you have a better chance of winning’…

In looking back at my original question – Are they for real? – I’d say yes…

And are the PWP Indices biased towards possession and passing accuracy?  No…

Best, Chris

Retweets welcomed…

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Week 17 in MLS (2013 versus 2014) PWP; And what about DC United this year?

Over a year has passed since my first broad strokes about Possession with Purpose were applied to Major League Soccer; since then we’ve had one full year to look at it and how things have played out.

So how do things stack up today versus Week 17 last year, and, is something going on with DC United (besides the new strikers) that is different this year?

To begin; here’s a look at the teams after 17 weeks in 2013:



The top five Western Conference teams were Portland, Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, Vancouver and Seattle; the only team not to make the Playoffs last year was Vancouver.

Upon reflection, it was their defense that let them down, and the most probable reason why Martin Rennie got sacked.

In looking at the top five Eastern Conference teams they were Sporting KC, New England, New York, Montreal, and Houston – the same top five teams that eventually made the Playoffs.

So how about this year?

CPWP INDEX End of Week 17

CPWP INDEX End of Week 17

In looking at the Eastern Conference teams, the top five are Sporting KC, Columbus Crew, DC United, New England and New York – the odd one out, at the moment, is Toronto vice Columbus.

It should be noted that Toronto also have at least two, and no less than four, games in hand – so it’s not exactly “apples to apples yet” but should be in about 3 weeks time. As for the Western Conference, the top five so far are LA Galaxy, Seattle, Colorado, Portland, and FC Dallas.

Again the games in hand vary somewhat.

The HUGE, if not inordinately large question here is… Can the Portland Timbers turn their defensive nightmare of a season around with a healthy Norberto Paparatto, Pa Madou Kah and newly signed Liam Ridgewell, for three solid center-backs?  And, if so, does that fix the defensive issues?

Now an even tougher question…

Is the level of accuracy, last year, to be expected this year (nine for ten in teams last year making the Playoffs, based upon 17 games of data)?

I’m not so sure… And a good reason for that is the emerging clarity on how effective some teams have become (this year) in winning or drawing games with less possession…

In other words, playing to a counterattacking style, that sees some teams offering the opponent higher levels of possession, penetration, and shots taken.

So is there another way to try and answer the question about accuracy in the CPWP Index?

How about the CPWP Predictability Index – what does that offer after Week 17?

CPWP Predictability Index Week 17

CPWP Predictability Index Week 17

In looking at the CPWP PI, the numbers seem to indicate that Sporting KC, Columbus, New England, New York and Philadelphia have the best chances of winning, given historical team performances this year.

So the PI sees Philadelphia with an edge over Toronto… (reminder – TFC have four games in hand though)…

And does that Head Coach change, where Curtin is now in charge over Hackworth, reflect the Hackworth predictability of Philadelphia or the Curtin predictability of Philadelphia?  More to follow on that in a later article for sure…

As for the Western Conference; LA leads with Colorado, Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland – that sees FC Dallas dropping out with a smaller chance of winning and Vancouver sliding in…

And yet, neither Index has Real Salt Lake in the top five – could that be? Has the loss of Saborio, Beckerman and Rimando impacted RSL that much in such a short time span; and what does that say for the second half of the season? Lots of questions with no answers yet…

Now… take a look how far down DC United are in the Predictability Index (5th worst predictability in winning) – might that indicate how fortunate they have been in scoring goals or is that a reflection of something else going on?

DC United have the second best Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal of all the teams in MLS (42.12%); FC Dallas lead MLS in that category with 44.26%. Clearly the addition of Espindola and Johnson (even if they don’t play together) has added extreme value to this team.

Especially when their percentage for this same statistic, last year, was just 16.66% I wonder what the Expected Goals look like for DC United and how their shot locations may have changed this year compared to last year? Perhaps one or two folks who specialize in Expected Goals can help answer that one?

I did check to see if they have been awarded more PK’s than other teams – no – only 2 PK’s awarded so far this year.

As for Opponent Red Cards?

Perhaps that has created a positive influence in Goals Scored? Their opponents have had 5 Red Cards this year (two by FC Dallas in one game) – that is tied for 3rd highest (best/most advantageous) in MLS.

Has that helped?  I think so…

DC United have 10 points in the four games where their opponent has been red-carded and nine of their 24 Goals Scored have come from those games.

So, in retrospect – if the opponent’s for DC United “play-fair” it is (likely?) that will negatively impact DC United in the League Table.

That’s one advantage of the CPWP PI – it is not ‘doubly’ influenced by opponents being Red or Yellow Carded – it’s strictly five of the six primary data points of PWP.

In closing…

Still plenty to play for and any team, and I mean any team, can get on a winning streak – just look at Chivas USA their last three games.

How all the ‘defensive bunkering’ folds into the PWP Indices and Predictability outcomes has yet to play out. When every team reaches 17 games I’ll regenerate this article with updated information.

Best, Chris