timbers draw fire but show their mettle…

Posted on: March 17th, 2014 by sunshine 12 Comments

 

Valeri assumes the standard pose most everyone in the PP held yesterday...

Valeri assumes the standard pose most everyone in the PP held yesterday...

Forgive us if the axe blog does not overreact to yesterday’s draw but there are too many positives to take from last night’s draw to already throw in the towel. Putting aside the fact 32 games remain in the regular season, this team is actually coming together and may take a couple more games until they really start to click. What we saw in several moments of yesterday’s match is that when boys pick up the pace and intensity of play they create problems for teams. Sure, they again missed some clear sitters but clear sitters are never as clear as they are from the stands and television.

 

The best way not to miss sitters is to continue creating the chances to miss them—the law of averages guarantees one will eventually be scored. Of course, that is of little consolation to Gaston Fernandez, Urruti, Diego Valeri, and Will Johnson who all spent moments with their head in their hands. But the point is that chances are being made, more chances than last season at this point. It is only a matter of time before the Timbers light up the opposition.

 

Chicago started the game with four changes from the side that lost in last weekend’s game against Chivas USA. They brought in Shipp, Amarikwa, Joya, and Matt Watson. Even with the new faces in their starting eleven, the Fire controlled very little of the game. They completed just 58% of the 206 total passes they attempted and held a measly 43% of the possession. Frankly, their approach to the game was the approach that is now becoming the preferred approach by any MLS club visiting the Timbers—physical play intended to break up the midfield connections. The effect of their game plan was telling: rarely do teams maintain 56% possession and complete 81% of their passes and leave the result late unless the flow of the game is obstructed in some manner.     

 

Larentowicz was the classic bully he has been throughout his career. In the early portions of the game he did what he does best—which is very little other than play physical football. He harassed Nagbe at every chance he could, he broke up play in the middle of pitch, and worked to force the Timbers to the wings. Indeed, the Timbers put in 24 crosses as they looked to break open an unlikely juggernaut, the Chicago Fire defense. 

 

Ironically, the Timbers best movements into the final third came through the middle, either with Valeri pulling the strings for Fernandez and Urruti, or through Nagbe’s rangy runs from deep in the Timbers half. However, it was Valeri who was key to the Timbers success in the early part of the game. On several occasions in the first half, as he drove through the middle, Valeri found the two strikers as they made runs into space on the left that but for Hurtado’s quick reactions would have seen the Timbers open their account.

 

Nagbe’s influence grew through the game. Once he determined to exchange his usual slashing runs for more direct play, he limited the effectiveness of Larentowicz’s and Matt Watson’s obstructionism. Indeed, the second half was defined not just by his rangy runs from deep in the Timbers half but also his defensive efforts that lead to regaining possession. It is often said that in order to improve overall play one only needs to commit to playing defense. Nagbe proved that correct. After things seemed to not go his way in the early moments of the game, he spent more time tracking back, pouncing on loose balls, and picking pockets. The result was he started a large number of the Timbers counterattacks.         

 

Chicago opened the scoring in the 20 minute from a Larentowicz penalty kick awarded after Amarikwa got goal side of Paparattoto, before being taken down from behind. It was not an intentional challenge, nor was it an attempted tackle, Paparatto merely bumbled into the speedy striker and fell over him. Central defenders are going to give up penalties, but if that is the case you would hope the defender would get his pound of flesh from the challenge.   

 

Given that width was our main inroad to goal the positive effect Zakuani’s introduction had on the Timbers attack was not surprising. Fernandez is a classy player and certainly has a nose for goal, but his pace on the left wing does not match Zakuani’s pace on the left wing. When Zakuani entered the game for Urruti he stretched the Fire defense, proving that Lovell Palmer and Patrick Ianni are not the answer to the age old MLS question: what does a good right back look like.    

 

 

Surprise!!! Gata sneaks in again...

Surprise!!! Gata sneaks in again...

In the 79 minute, Gaston Fernandez once again popped up in the right place at the wrong time for the opposition. The Timbers worked the wing as Jewsbury drove on the right to get the cross into Valeri and Fernandez, but had to settle for the pass to Valeri. Valeri then opened space for an unobstructed shot as he drew defenders to the byline before slotting the ball to Nagbe, who rifled a shot from 18 yards that was mishandled by Shawn Johnson. As it seems to be his habit, Fernandez anticipated Johnson’s reaction and easily put the ball away to draw the Timbers even at 1 all.

 

Ricketts saved the draw in the second minute of stoppage time as he prevented Soumare from scoring from a set piece at the far post. Frankly, it would have been an unfair result to lose it late. The fact remains the Timbers were the better side for quality of play.  

12 Responses

  1. Paul

    March 17, 2014

    It would piss me off as a professional when my coaches game plan for the week is to continuely hack players down because we are not good enough to play with them without doing that.

    On the positive it was a much more connected match than last week. Just need to get it in their head from start and not the 35th min.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      March 17, 2014

      Unfortunately, there are coaches who have made a living from those tactics.

      Reply
      • Paul

        March 17, 2014

        Sadly yes. It was nice to finally hear Ives talk about the hack-a-Nagbe on his podcast today. Said it’s bad for league and for health of players, and went on a bit more as well. So it’s finally nice to hear others talk about it and not just use Timbers faithful

        Reply
  2. buckyball77

    March 17, 2014

    You picked up on a few bright spots from the first half, but my impression was that overall it was a woeful first 45. We tried our usual bag of tricks but the execution was way off. Plus, like Philly, Chicago weren’t as bad as we expected them to be.

    The word is out in the league- When playing the Timbers, just knock the guy with the ball flat on his back. You’ll just give up a free kick and it’ll bring the Timber’s quick passing attack to a halt. Then it’s just a dead ball play where you pack the box with your team of taller players and dare the Timbers to shoot through a dense thicket of bodies. Crude soccer, but effective.

    Timbers gotta learn to snap shoot more. I know coaches drill players to remember that they have some time for the shot, but as a team we’re in so close to the net when we do shoot that it comes down to the reaction time of the shooter versus that of the defender. Seems like we went through this period of overly deliberate shooting last spring too.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      March 17, 2014

      The best moments yesterday were the direct moments. If teams want to press us off the ball then make it difficult for them to do so–drive on goal rather than pass around it. Porter likes options, but there has not been a distinct change in approach. I think we saw that what can happen when one is taken.

      Reply
  3. Boo

    March 17, 2014

    Good and bad. Bad: a lethargic first half along with Pappa and WJ competing for Howler of the Week. I’m sure there has already been plenty of handwringing and panic regarding those, and the result, so I won’t dwell on it. Good stuff: most of the second half when the team decided they didn’t want to be bullied anymore. They started playing intense, pacey football and things started happening.

    Also, it’s good to learn early on that maybe Urruti isn’t ready for lone striker yet, not if Fernandez is playing left wing. I just don’t think that works as good as it needs to. It just seems like it’s an “out wide, into the box, nobody home” soft attack with that lineup. Both week 1 and 2 saw a noticeable increase in connectivity and possibility once Gata went central, with him scoring in both situations. He seems to have a nose for goal, perhaps isolated out wide isn’t a great place for him.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      March 17, 2014

      I would not be surprised to see Urruti substituted out for Zakuani once the man who works is able to finally play a full 70+ minutes.

      Reply
  4. Alexander Tennent

    March 17, 2014

    Totally agree with Boo. The lineup right now needs to go – Zak, Gata and Nagbe up top; Valeri in mid underneath, Chara and Will forming the triangle behind him. Also, I’d like to see Powell, Villafana or even Peay get a runout at some point for Jewsbury. I don’t think it’s coincidence that it’s this lineup that is solely responsible for all our goals thus far.

    Reply
    • sunshine

      March 17, 2014

      All the goals? We’ve conceded once from a set-piece and once from a penalty kick. Until we concede five in a game from run of play I’m satisfied with the results. Plus, I’d rather not ever see Villafana in our backline.

      Reply
      • Alexander Tennent

        March 18, 2014

        By “all the goals” I was referring to Gata and the offensive lineup we had on the field when he scored.

        Reply
      • Alexander Tennent

        March 18, 2014

        By “all the goals” I was referring to Gata and the offensive lineup we had on the field when he scored. Also, I’m not suggesting Villafana is an answer, I’m just fearing that Jewsbury’s effectiveness is in declining supply and foreseeing a time when another option emerges. I agree the Villa is the least attractive of the three.

        Reply
        • Alexander Tennent

          March 18, 2014

          Although I can see how you read that comment, coming on the heels of what I said about the backline. Overall, I’m encouraged.

          Reply

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