Portland Timbers v FC Dallas – Preview

As outlined in my previous post, we’re not looking too good at the moment. Win-less in 5, we’ve scored 1/5th of the goals our opponents have put past us. That figure was slightly skewed by the 5-0 capitulation we witnessed at FC Dallas stadium on the 21st of July. In the last 5 games, Dallas have taken 7 points – the win against us, a 2-1 win at Colorado and a 0-0 draw hosting San Jose. Now, the Texans take the long journey up North, and will be looking to take 3 points again.

Top scorer Blas Perez is doubtful with an injured foot, right-winger Jackson Goncalves is out with concussion, whilst center-back Matt Hedges will most likely get through a hamstring strain. So taking those injuries into consideration and the way FC Dallas have lined up in the past 5 games, I think they’ll line up something like this:

Jackson would usually start on the right-wing, and it’d be more likely to see Castillo up front. But with the man that had the biggest part in our downfall missing (Jackson got 1 goal and 2 assists), it’s more likely that Castillo will drop back into midfield, Brek Shea taking the other flank. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if either Shea or Castillo take the spot upfront (Shea’s scored 3 this season), but Dallas would like to think the goal scoring potential from their midfield will be too strong for our defence to cope with.

We’re unlikely to see that back four change, as you can see that only Jair Benitez has missed a game in the last 5. That consistency has helped Dallas keeping goals conceded down to just 4 goals in the last 5 games – including 2 clean sheets.

There may be one sentimental inclusion that bucks the trend of the last 5 games – James Marcelin. Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman said “there always is a great response from players going back to prove something”, with Marcelin himself saying he’s “excited” by the prospect of coming back to play his old team-mates at Jeld-Wen.

Statistical Comparison
Unfortunately, for Portland fans at least, our “last 5 game averages” are beaten almost entirely by the averages Dallas rack up. You’d expect that on a 5 game losing streak. Where we do look better though, is in our pass success. On average, we attempt 472 passes with a success rate of 79%. Dallas, on the other hand, attempt 431 passes at a success rate of 75.5%. Both teams, however, average 8 key passes a game. It’s a problem Portland have had all season – turning their possession into meaningful chances. Against Chivas, we scored our highest amount of key passes created in the last 5 games – 13. That’s up 11 passes on the Dallas game (where you’d probably be surprised to learn we actually created 2 key passes). Again, in my previous article, I discussed whether we’re creating the right type of chances for the roster we have. At least against Chivas we improved in that department.

One area we need to improve is that of our crossing. We only average 3 successful crosses a match, compared to Dallas’ 8. Where our success rate is a poor 15%, Dallas successfully complete 33.9% of their crosses. Their highest was a 50% success rate in the 2-1 loss to San Jose, they attempted 30 crosses in that game – full-back Jair Benitez responsible for 5 of them, 3 of which reached their intended target. If we setup incorrectly, our already low-on-confidence, usually left exposed, occasionally error prone full-backs will be in for a tough time. Dallas will look to overload the wings, much in the way Colorado did in their 3-0 win.

Image from mlssoccer.com

FC Dallas also trump us in our offensive efforts. Averaging a 35.1% on-target shooting rate, they attempted 66 shots, 23 of them hitting the target. The 5-0 win over us wasn’t their most positive game either, again in the 2-1 away loss to San Jose, they attempted 15 shots with 8 of them on target – an impressive rate of 53.3%. We average 25.8% over the last 5 games, having an impressive on-target rate against LA in the 5-3 loss at Jeld-Wen. We attempted 15 shots, 10 of which were on target. LA were able to register the same amount on target in just 14 shots. Against Chivas we notched up an impressive amount of efforts – 19 in total, our highest in the last 5 games. Unfortunately, only 6 were on target, but at least we’re improving from the pitiful 6 shots, 1 on target registered in the reverse fixture at Dallas. Whilst we’re on the subject of the last gameweek, let it be known that Dallas hit a poor 7.7% on-target rate from 13 attempts. Only one of those shots were on target.

Moving onto the Defence, there’s no doubt that the Dallas back four are in much better shape. Consistency in partnership being the key, on average they win 2 more tackles than us, and 4 more interceptions. We do fare better (in numbers at least) when it comes to clearances, making 27 on average to their 24. However, this should be expected given that our opponents register a higher average possession rate of 51.1% (Dallas’ opponents see 48.5% of the ball on average), they have 69 attempts on goal (FCD’s opponents just 51), they rack up 42 successful dribbles (to our 28, Dallas’ 47 and their opponents 32) and they scratch up 66 unsuccessful crosses, or “crosses our defence have dealt with” (to Dallas’ opponents 54).

Prediction
Again, it’s going to be a tough game for us. I think many of us thought we’d be able to take the game to Chivas, and in many respects we did. We at least created more chances than we have done in recent games, and we looked to at least provide Kris Boyd with more opportunity to score.

On the other hand, Dallas have a strong back four and hold the psychological advantage of embarrassing us just 2 games ago. They also have the added advantage of Brek Shea’s availability.

I’d like to think that we’ll stick to a similar lineup to the one we rolled out against Chivas. Kris Boyd deserves the chance to right his wrongs, and Brent Richards deserves the opportunity to continue his development. We’ve had 5 games of tweaking a system and the personnel within it. Keeping some faith and consistency (instead of panicking and making wholesale changes) may just combine with the ever-present Timber Army faithful to get that much-needed goal, never mind 3 points.

I don’t want to make a prediction today, all I hope for is a positive performance and, at the least, a goal.

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One response to “Portland Timbers v FC Dallas – Preview

  1. Well…I think there were a lot of positives. Franck Songo’o was a man on fire – whatever bollocking he got after the Colorado disgrace has lit a fire under this guy, and I love it. Diego Chara was his usual short-hard-got-a-yellow-card self, even Jack Jewsbury had a solid match AND scored the equalizer.

    Still…this match tugged on all the things that frustrate me about this team this year. Horst plays a hard-nosed 93 minutes and but spends the 94th ball-watching and gets beaten for a childishly poor Defending 101-style goal. Kimura gets turned way too often, Kris Boyd drifts about up top – yes, I know you want a ball played to your feet, but you’ve got to move to space once in a while, man! – and the entire attack is hesitant, stop-and-go, and brutally slow.

    And this was a better match than we’ve had in a while!

    So we got a better performance, and a goal, and, yet, all the questions I have still remain. Why can’t we move and pass like we’ve played together before? Why can’t we defend better as a unit; why do one of our players or another keep making elementary errors? Why do we seem to run out every match like we have no tactical plan, have never studied our opponents, and don’t have either a style or a plan to impose that style on our enemy? From the North End it looks like if they every write the story of this season the title will be “Eleven Guys In Search Of A Plan”.

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