Jeff Wilson in Arizona makes his Post Amerika debut attending the Portland Timbers v Colorado Rapids pre-season friendly at the Kino Sports Complex.
Timbers Identity Taking Shape with each Pass
Jeff Wilson, Kino Sports World Arizona
MLS preseason kicked off with The Portland Timers handily defeating the Colorado Rapids 3-1 on a sunny but uncharacteristically windy morning at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson Arizona.
Colorado started in a 4-2-1-3 formation while the Timbers played Ryan Miller, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, David Horst and Sporting Kansas transfer Michael Harrington filling out the back line.
At midfield Porter started with a diamond formation with Jack Jewsbury as defensive mid, new arrival from RSL Will Johnson out left, Diego Chara out right and new acquisition Diego Valeri in the attacking mid-field position. Playing up top, both Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe rounded out this new possession minded Timbers philosophy.
The new approach, one more focused on possession, was very evident from the start of the game. Two minutes had elapsed when a series of linking passes starting at midfield, with tik-tak style written all over it between Valeri and Chara, led to a threaded through ball to Nagbe. The move only came to a halt with the raising of an offside flag showing there’s still some rustiness to be overcome. The seeds of the new system were noticeable though and seem to be sprouting into some entertaining football.
Colorado had a number of set pieces in the first half, which they failed to capitalize on and generally were lacking at midfield. The exception was a shot that rattled the woodwork and a number of impressive runs down the right side by Martin Rivero.
Jewsbury went out in the first 10-minutes of the half with what GM Gavin Wilkinson later confirmed was a hamstring injury. Eric Alexander replaced him at the bottom of the diamond.
In the 27th minute a long ball down the left side from Harrington to Johnson resulted in a foul outside of the box. Enter new signing Diego Valeri (who looks to be taking all set pieces and corners) who curled the ball into the far right post for the Timbers first goal of the preseason.
During the second half both teams unveiled new line-ups.
The Timbers changed formations opting for a 4-2-1-3. With Milso Kocic in goal and Ryan Kawulok, Mamadou Danso, former Man United star Mikael Silvestre and Chris Taylor forming the back line, Eric Alexander and Kalif Alhassan played on the wings, playing with Danny Mwanga dropping in just behind Bright Dike, Sal Zizzo and Jose Valencia up top.
Silvestre put in a strong performance despite Colorado pulling a goal back in the second half. There are little things that make the quality of this player stand out, in particular his ability to read plays and get into the passing lanes and calmness on the ball. Also he tended to square up to the goalkeeper when the ball was played back giving Kocic a distribution outlet.
Both goals by the Timbers were stinging shots from distance. Alhassan put in the first goal of the second half with a bending ball from eighteen yards out in the 62nd minute. The play developed with a Rapids player dispossessing Valencia but leaving the ball languishing for Alhassan to cress it into the upper right corner.
The third and final goal came in the 79th minute with Valencia striking out from just outside the box.
Despite scoring two goals and threatening numerous times throughout the second half the Timbers looked weaker in possession with a number of bad giveaways than in the first. It was one specific incident like this where an overlapping a run by a Colorado player down the left side resulted in a goal.
Overall however the Timbers looked very good. The new identity of the team is forming and key players such as Valencia and Valeri will be central to that development.
Coach Porter Q&A:
In a post game interview Coach Porter discussed how implementing his possession style of play needs to be considered as a progression:
“It is an evolution that has to take shape over time. The last thing you want to do [while playing out of the back] is be naïve and get stripped, get turned over and now they score a goal.”
Porter explained that this will have greater consequences than just giving up points:
“All of a sudden players freeze up and now they don’t want to play [a possession style] at all and you lose the buy in. You could see guys like Baptise and Horst and they’re not always use to playing this style.
At times they showed a lot of confidence in play. There were other times when they froze up a little bit but I’m ok with that. I don’t want them to be put in a situation where they’re going to be scared, where they can lose that belief and confidence.”
Overall though, the new coach was satisfied with the outing:
“I was very happy because there were periods where you could see our identity take shape.”
POR: GK Donovan Ricketts, D Ryan Miller, D Andrew Jean-Baptiste, D David Horst, D Michael Harrington, M Diego Chara, M Jack Jewsbury (Eric Alexander, 7), M Diego Valeri, M Will Johnson, F Darlington Nagbe, F Ryan Johnson
COL: GK Matt Pickens, D Brian Mullan, D Drew Moor, D Diego Calderón, D Anthony Wallace, M Hendry Thomas, M Pablo Mastroeni, M Martín Rivero (Cesar Romero*, 45), F Kamani Hill, F Atiba Harris, F Tony Cascio
POR: GK Milos Kocic, D Ryan Kawulok, D Futty Danso, D Mikael Silvestre*, D Chris Taylor; M Michael Nanchoff*, M Kalif Alhassan, M Danny Mwanga, F Sal Zizzo, F Bright Dike, F Jose Valencia
COL: GK Jimmy Maurer*, D Chris Klute, D Nathan Sturgis, D Shane O’Neill, D Kory Kindle, M Dillon Powers, M Nick LaBrocca, M Dillon Serna, F Walter Martinez*, F Andre Akpan, F Deshorn Brown
Jeff Wilson – A Personal Observation:
I want to end on an anecdotal account. While in the stands before the game I noticed I was sitting next to three men wearing Portland Timbers parkas. Being there to report on the Timbers I assumed they were with the organization.
I introduced myself and asked a few questions about formations and some non-roster players. One of the men was GM Gavin Wilkinson. He shared with me his notes on the general line-up and he even offered to buy coffee.
This generosity was not just an isolated case. While walking over to the press area he stopped to shake hands and exchange a few words with some Timbers fans. I appreciate that this might sound like nonsense or a totally banal point, but there is something about this type of solidarity in these situations that reflect not only on the individual but also the organization generally and more broadly, the glue that binds all who are passionate about soccer in the USA.