Win Ugly

Timbers Starting Line-up:

Ricketts; Smith Mosquera Horst Kimura; Jewsbury Chara; Songoo Nagbe Zizzo; Dike

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: I do not posses the technically ability to give you the stop motion pictures with graphics that Kevin expertly uses to point out the key moments in the match. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to actually do that so I apologize in advance for the lack of graphical analysis you have become used to from Slide Rule Pass.

The game started with the Timbers in their now familiar (under Coach Wilkinson) 4-3-3 (it really is a 4-2-3-1) with Jewsbury sitting deep and Chara back from suspension roving in front of him. Nagbe once again slotted in his “trequarista” role that has seen him net 3 goals in the last 3 matches.

By now everyone knows what happened in the match so I will forgo a detailed match report.

In summary, the first half was a fairly even affair punctuated by two fine saves from Colorado’s Goalkeeper Matt Pickens and some chippy midfield play from both sides that saw Timbers defender Steven Smith carded for a challenge on Brian Mullan that caused Mullan to leave the match at half time.

The game sprung to life late in the first half with an excellent flowing counter-attack by the Timbers and in 4 passes from front to back the Timbers Army faithful were watching Bright Dike flip (literally) for joy after depositing his second goal in three matches. A minute later, Nagbe should have had his fourth in as many games but for once his control let him down after a sublime through ball from Songo’o.

The second half started as a tense, physical affair with little in the way of direct scoring chances until Jewsbury sent a rocket from 35 yards out that Pickens spectacularly saved. The Rapids pushed hard for an equalizer late on and in the 85th minute Omar Cummings really should have equalized on a open header but thankfully his effort slipped wide of Ricketts post.

Match Analysis

This is the type of match the Timbers would have lost or tied earlier this year.

Was it particularly pretty win? Nope. Were the Timbers out played for long stretches of the second half? Yes. Should the Rapids have scored in the 2nd half? Yes

But the Timbers did what it took to win and that is something we couldn’t have said earlier this year. Watching this match it is clear the difference in what Wilkinson is trying to do as opposed to Spencer. Under Spencer and his 4-4-2 system, the goal was to move possession through the midfield get it wide and then get to the byline for a cross.

What we see in this 4-2-3-1 under Wilkinson are two key changes:

1) The ball still gets sent wide but the wide player looks to cut back and look for an early ball into the middle around 30-40 yards to a Nagbe or Chara. Only then do they then take the ball to the byline.

2) Defenders are clearly under instructions to hit early long diagonal balls out of the back to the opposite side midfielder. When executed, this has the benefit of quickly changing the point of attack and opens the middle for players like Nagbe. When not executed well it leads to a counter attack for the opposing team.

Football/Soccer is a team sport. But it is often a collection of individual battles throughout the pitch that determine the result. Lets take a look at a few.

Martin Rivera vs Jack Jewsbury: Rivera is clearly the creative heart of the Rapids. And he found joy all night in the Timbers final third. Jewsbury tried his best but Rivera had his number all night. Advantage Rivera.

Conor Casey vs David Horst: There is nothing subtle about either of these guys. They are physical players who enjoy the battle. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Horst but assisted by Mosquera he won this battle and Casey was kept silent. Advantage Horst.

Darlington Nagbe vs Hendry Thomas: Did Nagbe score this match? Nope. But he was once again the most talented and dangerous Timber out there. He went head to head with Thomas who was starting his first match after coming over from Wigan and Nagbe had Thomas on his heels all night. Advantage Nagbe.

Sal Zizzo vs Tyson Wahl: Wahl is really really hoping his name is not on the starting team sheet Wednesday. That is how bad Zizzo owned him. Advantage Zizzo.

Finnegan’s Five:

1) Bright Dike: Okay this is going to be unpopular but Bright Dike really isn’t that good of a footballer. He’s a great guy who works his socks off and I badly want him to succeed…. but the quality just isn’t there folks. You can see why he is preferred to Boyd in Gavin’s system. This 4-2-3-1 requires a mobile forward who will make diagonal runs to drag central defenders out of the middle and open up room for Nagbe/Chara to fill that space. But his touch is abysmal and we can’t confuse hustle for playing intelligent football.

2) Frank Songo’o: Can you imagine how much MORE dominating Songo’o would be if he did more of what we saw in 1st half stoppage pass to Nagbe: get rid of the ball faster. Too many times Songo’o chooses to take that 3rd and 4th touch. Sure it’s dazzling and fun to watch him clown a defender but he needs to pass when his team mates are actually open.

3) Sal Zizzo: Fantastic night for Zizzo. He truly looks recovered from his knee surgery. I often times call Sal a poor man’s Theo Walcott. And like Theo, Sal struggles with consistency. If he can figure it out how to replicate Friday on the regular, we are going to be eating meatball subs from Zizzo’s FC for years to come.

4) Donovan Ricketts: If you want to know what a great goalkeeping performance looks like, re-watch Matt Pickens from Friday night. I’m thoroughly unimpressed with Ricketts. From the 5 unforced distribution errors to his slowness off his line to his penchant for “poster saves”. I had the fortune of playing goalkeeper through college and beyond so I watch keepers closely. My college keeper coach used to drill into us all the time: “The greatest goalkeepers rarely make spectacular saves”. What he meant by that is that 90% of goalkeeping is anticipation, footwork and positioning. Three things that were lacking in Ricketts performance Friday night. His absurd “diving” save in the 17th minute where he left his feet and palmed it right into the danger zone is a prime example of this.

5) Hanyer Mosquera: Mosquera is such a quietly efficient defender. It really takes re-watching a match to appreciate all that he does back there. One of the true bright spots in a tough season.

You can follow Jeremy on twitter here.


19 thoughts on “Win Ugly

  1. “2) Defenders are clearly under instructions to hit early long diagonal balls out of the back to the opposite side midfielder”

    I loved the tactical effectiveness of this. But I felt like Mosquera had a real hard time doing it well. But on the other hand Horst seemed almost to do it effortlessly.

  2. It goes against the general #RCTID grain, I know, but I’d have to agree with you re: Dike. I love his heart and effort but, yeah, I’m not so enamoured with technical ability. You can’t argue with goals, of course but I do sometimes find myself agog at people talking about Dike’s “potential” and how he’s still young and can develop. He’ll be 26 in February.

    You can ask almost any coach in just about any sporting context bar a few, and most will tell you that by that age there’s very little they can do to substantially take a player forward in the way you can with a 16/17/18 year old. The player you are at 26 is, pretty much, the player you’re going to be. There may be a bit of fitness work, and a bit honing to do, but I doubt you’ll see great strides forward.

    What he have seen, I think, is the benefit of his loan spell. He went off, scored some goals, got his confidence up and has carried that on. Whereas you look at Boyd, who has been struggling to score of late – “snatching” at his chances, in his own words. So much of a striker’s game is built of confidence. That’s why you often see them going on streaks where they can’t stop scoring one month and couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo the next.

    Long may his goal scoring continue in the mean time though!

    1. In regards to Boyd being brought in for the 88th minute, do you think that was a tactical decision? I’m leaning strongly towards no. It seems like they brought in Boyd to bring in Boyd. My guess is to avoid the tally of games where he hasn’t played, to keep the rumors at bay. Thoughts?

      1. I also concur re Dike. He seems like he would potentially be a great high energy late game sub that can bruise a few people. Or the type of striker who will give you his all in the middle of a 3 match in a week type run, but we are in trouble if he is the answer. But with this year pretty much gone, let’s throw everyone in there and see if someone surprises

      2. To me it smacked of a time-wasting change. I don’t get why you throw on your DP to waste time, but then there’s much the GW does that I don’t get!

        Some raised the point that there was concern on the bench re: Ricketts, so that’s why the 3rd sub was held off for so long in case Bendik needed to go on. I think there’s something to that.

        In all honesty you could’ve taken Dike off after an hour and not noticed he’d gone, but Wilkinson seems more a “consolidator” when it comes to his subs than someone who’ll try and press home an advantage and throw on someone to maybe grab a 2nd.

      3. I suspect a bit of all the reasons above; getting his name on the match report, time-wasting, and the strange ways of Gavinball.

        That said, I am going to stick up for Dike here. The one thing the Timbers have always lacked is physical force. Remember this is MLS; forty stitches or a gunshot would is a foul, anything else is just incidental contact. The other clubs have figured out that beating up the Timbers is a good plan to beat the Timbers; we just don’t have the composure, the skills, or the brute force to fight back.

        Dike brings that to the frontline. He’s like a battalion six (that’s an artillery term, by the way; a barrage that throws six rounds from eighteen guns at the enemy; it’s the Wrath of God in artillery style) dumped on the opponent’s backline; he shakes things up and shakes them loose. He can finish occasionally, too, but that’s not his real value. He creates opportunities rather than finishes them.

        What he lack right now – but have the potential for – is the finishing. Hopefully Porter can figure out a way to throw another striker or an attacking midfielder to exploit the holes our Loose Cannon Dike hammers in the enemy backline.

      4. Hear hear! I’m liking Dike. Whatever his faults, he makes the team better. And if his scoring does dry up, maybe all the energy and chaos he brings will allow Nagbe, Chara, et al, to put a few in the net. Let’s all think good thoughts about Dike, shall we?

  3. “a mobile forward who will make diagonal runs to drag central defenders out of the middle and open up room for Nagbe/Chara to fill that space.”

    Well, Perlaza is free.

  4. I think it goes without saying that Wednesday will be an ugly game. It will be very interesting to see what adjustments each side makes. Here are some thoughts on that.

    Start Jewsbury at RB in place of Kimura. Let Chara mark Rivera. Put Alexander in mid.

    If Wahl is starting at LB, just run everything through Zizzo until they show they can shut him down.

    Start Mwanga in place of Dike. Give Colorado something new to deal with.

    Horst and Mosquera at CB looked great. I’d probably keep the same setup with Horst marking Casey. If I were Colorado, I’d maybe play Casey more withdrawn, make Horst come out and maybe make a mistake.

    I’ve long thought that the Timbers’ best defense is their offense. Bunkering doesn’t seem to work well for them, so I hope they come out playing aggressive offensively.

    1. The are all good ideas for the lineup. The Jewsbury things is especially intriguing. And I’m buying as much Zizzo stock as I can get my hands on. He’s the shit.

      I must say, though, I don’t know why everyone’s so down on Dike. 2 goals in 3 games sounds pretty good to me. What’s he got to do? Stand around a little more like Boyd always does?

      1. I honestly think Dike is not an MLS caliber forward. I don’t think eh has the talent to support a winning team over a season. That is my opinion.

        That said, he is playing amazing right now and no way should we sit him. A few more games like this and he will make me look dumber than I already do.

  5. Have to agree with your assessment of Dike. Great hustle, but not much else. Watched the game again last night, and in addition to his abysmal touch, he got in the way of teammates’ shots/scoring opportunities at least twice.

    But his hustle is what makes him better than Boyd right now. After Boyd subbed in, he had several opportunities to pressure the defense that he didn’t take. He knew he was only gonna be in there for 6-8 minutes, so he couldn’t have been worried about saving his energy. I think he was sulking.

    I was particularly angry that he didn’t go after Pickens the few times the CO keeper came so far out of the box in the last few minutes. If Boyd had managed to force a bad pass and one of our guys had got on the end of it, they’d have had a free shot at a wide open goal. Right now, I’m feeling that Boyd is a more expensive version of Keita.

  6. A play no one’s mentioned yet: remember in the 2nd half when we had a 3 on 2 (might have been a 3 on 1) and Song’o was bringing it down the right side? If he sends that ball into the middle (I think it was Nagbe and Dike in there), then we go up 2-0, no doubt in my mind.
    Instead, Song’o pulls a Song’o, holding the ball and trying to beat the defender, letting the defense catch up and ruining the fast break.
    It absolutely drove me crazy. Classic Song’o. Anybody else remember that play? Any thoughts on it?

    1. I do remember that because it was the second time my girlfriend asked me, “Why are you so mad at Songo’o?”. I love his creativity on the ball and his willingness to take people on, but he has to look to pass sooner. The ball that he sent Nagbe was gorgeous, and he has the skill and the chances to play like that more often. His individual skill draws defenders and opens up space for other Timbers to move to, Songo’o would do well to recognize this and distribute.

  7. I agree with the assessment of Ricketts too. Weird that it’s criticisms of the goalscorer and the keeper that kept a clean sheet that I agree most with!

    That save he made, I think it was the first half, where it was a fine save, but he pushed it right back out in front of him… Ugh. Any top keeper will make the point that saving it is only a part of the job – if you can’t get it clear of the goalmouth, you’re inviting trouble on to you. That’s all about reflexes, control and setting yourself right.

    On top of that, his distribution – the one thing I thought was an “upgrade” on Perkins – was terrible. And I worry about the injury risk. But hey, clean sheet. I’ll take that.

  8. Hi all,

    Thanks for your comments. A couple thoughs/response:

    The play in the second half which resulted in Lareontiwicz (sp?) getting a yellow for his foul on Songo’o was exactly what prompted me to include him in Finn’s Five. @IgnorantYank you are exactly right – that would have been a goal.

    @Withdrawn Striker – I really like the idea of moving Chara to mark Rivera and benching Jewsbury for Weds. We got lucky Rivera didn’t torch us and Jack just can’t mark him.

    @Darren – The irony is Perlaza would be the perfect forward in this 4-3-3. Seriously. Still don’t understand that trade if we never planned on playing Mwanga.

    Speaking of forwards – right now between Mwanga and Boyd we have about $1.8 million sitting on the bench in salaries. That’s not gonna cut it in a salary cap league.

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