Sounders 1 : 1 Timbers – The Tactical Analysis
by the Gang at Keeping a Clean Sheet, the Site for Tactics
Sigi Schmid once again lined up his side in a 4-4-2 system. With Obafemi Martins only fit for the bench, Sammy Ochoa got the start alongside Eddie Johnson. Ossie Alonso and Andy Rose patrolled the center with Zakuani and Martinez out wide. In defense, Yedlin, Traore, Hurtado and Burch protected Gspurning in goal.
Caleb Porter elected to field a very fluid starting XI. The Timbers were essentially a 4-2-3-1 when they did not have the ball. But, in possession, Nagbe was given a free role to drift in from the left.
In a defensive role, Chara went from the center to right sided midfield to help stop Zakuani. Diego Valeri played as a number ten behind the front man Ryan Johnson. Deep in midfield sat Jack Jewsbury and Will Johnson was more of a shuttling midfielder.
The fullbacks, Ben Zemanski and Michael Harrington, were used to get forward and provide attacking width while the center backs Baptiste and Silvestre were aided by a deep lying Jewsbury.
Portland Controls the Possession
Due to the raucous atmosphere, the first five minutes were quite frantic. The ball pinged around the field and plenty of fouls were committed since the pace of the game was so fast.
The center of the pitch was where the intense battles were waged all afternoon long. After a promising start to the season, Diego Valeri is now a marked man and Sigi Schmid used Alonso to track the Argentine.
Early on, Portland had two early chances through Valeri. The first was a shot from twenty yards and the second was his skip past Alonso and pass to Nagbe leading to a Johnson cross that Nagbe nearly got a touch on.
Initially, Valeri was extremely diligent in his defensive work on Alonso. Looking at the chalkboard, all of Alonso’s passes were backward in the first twenty minutes.
With Valeri getting the better of Alonso initially, it would have been safe to assume the Timbers were leading on the scoreboard. Yet, it was the Sounders who opened the scoring in the 13th minute. Chara played a lazy pass that was picked off by Zakuani.
The speedy left winger had room to roam since Zemanski was forward from his fullback spot. Zakuani then expertly played a low cross to the back post for Eddie Johnson to finish after losing his marker, Baptiste.
On the other side of the ball, Alonso led a masterful performance by the Seattle defense. The Sounders intercepted 49 of the Timbers passes. The majority of these came in their own half.
With the lead, Seattle dropped off and allowed Portland to pass the ball around. All of this possession was sterile; the Timbers were rarely successful in penetrating the defense near the Seattle goal.
Since Portland played a central midfielder and a striker in wide positions, their attack became very narrow. Nagbe was eager to cut in from the left and connect with Valeri.
Chara was conservative with his positioning and was instructed to stop counter attacks. Will Johnson was also cautious and rarely ran beyond where the ball was. The only width came from the fullbacks who served in low quality crosses.
The image below shows a build up through the center but the move broke down due to a poor touch; the precision needed to thread the Seattle space needle was not there for Portland.
With the match following a predictable pattern into the second half, each manager tried to impact the match through changes. Mauro Rosales came in for Ochoa on the hour mark.
Ochoa performed his defensive duties well but rarely touched the ball. Rosales was similarly quiet off the bench. Ten minutes later, Obafemi Martins made his MLS debut. He was active and influential in his twenty minutes, almost providing an assist to Johnson.
Porter changed to a 4-4-2 with twenty minutes to go. Frederic Piquionne came on for Jack Jewsbury. Chara and Johnson slid into the middle and Rodney Wallace and Ryan Johnson went out wide.
The influence from the bench was muted and the match stayed in the balance since the Sounders were struggling to close the game down. The home side never took control and maybe should have brought on Alex Caskey earlier to close down the center and control the tempo.
Portland salvaged a point through the substitute Wallace.
After a clearance from a corner, the ball was played back in and Wallace was unmarked to head hone an equalizer. The Sounders defenders had begun to push up and ball watch instead of staying tight to a mark.
Seattle will once again be angered.
After dominating the match at home against Montreal and losing, a tie to Portland will leave a bitter taste in their mouths. The Sounders are still short of playmaking abilities in the midfield. They hardly created chances in the match and were punished by not being able to grab a second goal.
Portland will be happy with a point. Caleb Porter is trying to build a team around ball retention and they did just that in a tough road environment. The Timbers need to add a second dimension to their attack instead of constantly resorting to a narrow approach.
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