Portland Timbers v LA Galaxy – Preview

A lot of things have happened in the last few weeks. We had a great game at home and then a loss against Salt Lake and then a new coach, but at the same time I think that we are all very professional.”

Danny Mwanga, 12/07/12

Definitely, definitely… the trickiest Preview I’ve written so far, and probably for the foreseeable future. Mwanga sums up the feeling of the playing staff, but I think the feeling of the Timbers Army was… numbness? Spencer’s popularity was hardly on the up, and Paulson’s decision to sack him was supported on the whole, but his interim replacement was greeted by derision and worry. Admittedly, I know little about Gavin Wilkinson, but using the power of numbers, my gut reaction is not one of confidence. I reached out to those in the know…

5 Minutes To Kickoff @5mTKO
@hashtagRCTID This is the MLS coaching job Gavin always wanted. Ugh…

@hashtagRCTID current GM. past player. past Interim coach. only really good at being a player depending on who you ask.

@hashtagRCTID GW is out of favor with many, but this decision will show immediate improvement I feel.

pɹɐןןod uɐʎɹ ‏@rdpollard
@hashtagRCTID he was a player, then our div 2 coach for a few years. Stayed on as GM, though 0 mls experience. Not much confidence in him.

Matthew Carmody@pdxwilly
@hashtagRCTID He’s been a player, coach, and GM. responsible for the youth academy. old timer TA want him gone; he’s the last vestige of our mediocrity; nobody else from the bad years is really around. just. him.

I don’t think there’s much more than that to add. I think it’s there’s a disappointment in a seemingly backward step in giving the job to a man who didn’t previously seem to inspire much in the way of confidence. He is, however, only interim. With quotes like the one below… thank goodness:

“It is just a matter of grinding through it at this point in time. There is a lot on my plate and obviously the focus has to be the first team, has to be the players, but obviously there is a lot on my plate and it is just a matter of getting through it and hopefully tomorrow morning I will catch my breath and go again.”

Gavin Wilkinson – post-training 13/07/12

LA in the last 5 games.
The Galaxy’s performances have varied from terrible to impressive this year, and their last 5 games don’t really do anything to disprove that. They comfortably beat Chicago on the road last weekend in a 2-0 win. In what seems to be an increasingly familiar MLS pattern, the score line was a comfortable one, but the traditional statistics that suggest dominance actually swing in favour of the losing side. Chicago made 422 successful passes and 122 misplaced. From an impressive total of 544 passes, they hit a success rate of 77.6%. LA in comparison only attempted 375 passes, 258 of which were successful (a rate of 68.8%). Chicago also completed more crosses, 8 of 23 hitting their destination. LA, on the other hand, only attempted 13, but completed at a rate of 38.5%. Chicago also bossed the possession with 59.4% of it, and also won 47 duels to LA’s 39. As I said, it’s seems to be a pattern that I’ve spotted over the last few weeks of analysis, one that I’m going to keep an eye on, but what it usually points to though, is wastage on the part of the opposition. It’s no different in the case of Chicago – 16 attempts on goal (to LA’s 13), 10 corners, 14 open play crosses, and ultimately… only 3 shots on target. That’s an on-target success rate of only 18.8%, opposed to LA’s 30.8%. I’m not saying that LA were lucky (although they were awarded a soft penalty), they do work hard. Aside from their obvious attacking threat from Keane, Donovan, Buddle, Beckham et al., they managed to win 16 tackles, 22 interceptions, and (probably the most telling stat of all) 52 clearances.

In what seems to be typical LA fashion, this season at least, they took an unexpected 2-1 loss at the Home Depot Center to Philadelphia Union. A much closer game, especially in the first half, LA were undone by poor defending in the 95th minute. A lovely backheel into space (that shouldn’tve been there) allowed Farfan to steal in and hit a low, well-placed shot into the corner, across Saunders. Given the precarious score, given the 30 seconds or so until the final whistle, it was a soft goal showing some poor concentration by the Galaxy back four. It’s not the first time this has happened, even in their last 5 games. They had to come back from 2 first-half goals at Real Salt Lake, talismanic Landon Donovan the player who dragged them out of the mire. There was also the 4-3 loss “Cali-Clasico” loss to San Jose, taking a 3-1 lead at one point, only to concede a Wondolowski winner.

I guess you could say that they live up to their Hollywood billing. On the whole (apart from the drab 1-0 win against a certain team from Portland), their games tend to be open, expansive affairs, both sides capable of scoring. In terms of their passing game, they fluctuate between impressive (3-0 Home win v. Vancouver: 445 successful/95 unsuccessful – 82.4% pass success rate) to the pretty poor (296/151 – 66.2%). There does, however, appear to be a lack of pattern between their better possession games and whether they’ve won or not.

In comparison to Portland, there are a few worrying signs – for the Timbers at least. Firstly, the LA hold a strong bite in midfield. In the 3 games we’ve lost (out of the last 5) – RSL, Colorado and LA – we’ve won significantly fewer duels. On average, we only win 45.6% of duels in those games, compared to the 53.4% average of our opponents. In our last game against LA, we won 31 compared to LA’s 43. If you take away their last game against Chicago (where, as previously noted, the Fire seemingly bossed), in every other game, LA beat their opponents in the “duels won” category. In the last 5 games, their opposition have won 194 duels, whilst the Galaxy take a total of 218.

This can be attributed to the fact even though ever-battling David Beckham didn’t feature against Chicago or Philadelphia, the perfectly capable (and arguable more effective) Marcelo Sarvas was available to deputised. Whoever starts against Portland can be sure to give Darlington Nagbe a tough time.

Click to Enlarge

They’re both impressive in their workrate and contribution. They cover large areas of the midfield, and they both stamp their mark on the game in different ways. Against Chicago, Sarvas won 6 tackles, made 6 interceptions, 9 recovery tackles. Against Philadelphia, he won 5 tackles, 4 interceptions and 15 recoveries, all while keeping a pass success rate of 82.6%. Beckham, on the other hand, is a lot looser in possession. I couldn’t believe the amount of times he lost possession against San Jose – a staggering 33! From the pass-master himself. But he does then attempt 12 crosses, make 3 key passes, 8 recovery tackles and ultimately pitching in with a goal. He also had a similar game against Vancouver.

They’re also consistent going forward. They average, across the last 5 games, an On Target rate of 33.5%. Their lowest rate came against RSL (30%) and highest came against Philadelphia (37.5%) – not a great deal of variance. They average 14 attempts on goal a game, with 5 shots hitting the target. The Timbers average 11 attempts, 3 on. An average of 27.3% over 5 games. Where LA are consistent in their attacking play, Portland are not. Our on target rate varies from a healthy 50% against LA (8 attempts, 4 on target), to a poor 20% against Seattle (15 attempts, 3 on target) to an absolute abysmal 0% (5 attempts, 0 on target) against Real Salt Lake.

Anything I write in the next paragraph must be underline by the fact – anything can happen at Jeld Wen. We all know that the 12th man, the TA, have an incredible effect on both teams. They lift our men, and they most certainly intimidate the opposition. Ask “best team in the league” San Jose and those dirty, dirty seattle sounders. Begrudgingly (at least in the case of the latter example), two teams capable of beating anyone on their day.

However, things don’t look good for Portland on paper. Over the last 5 games we’ve only scored 4 goals, but we’ve conceded 9. Not good. Even worse in comparison to LA, who’ve scored 12 (8 of which were on the road) and conceded 8 (6 on the road). Hopefully Gavin Wilkinson will break-up the partnership of Futty and Horst and draft in Hanyer Mosquera. There was also encouraging signs in the rehabilitation of Eric Brunner, who completed a few training sessions this week, although this game may be a stretch too far.

Wilkinson himself has said that there will be little in the way of personnel changes for the visit of LA. Although we know that Diego Chara will be suspended. I’d expect to see Wilkinson revert to a simpler formation to the one (if it can be called that) we saw during John Spencer’s swansong. I get the feeling we’ll see both Songo’o and Alhassan return to either wing, with Jack Jewsbury donning the Captain’s armband in the middle. I think there’s two outcomes to his midfield partner. It’ll either be a 3 man midfield again with Eric Alexander sitting next to him, deep in the midfield, with Darlington Nagbe pushed behind a lone front man – either Mwanga or Boyd. Alternatively, GW will plump for either Nagbe or Alexander alongside Jewsbury and then a front two. I’d be surprised if Boyd didn’t start, and given Mwanga scored our last goal, it’s more than likely that he’ll partner the Scot. Again, I’d quite like to see the pace of Mike Fucito used, but it may be more effective coming off the bench.

I of course, may have got this totally wrong. We may see a Spenny-like curve ball and end up playing a Mike Chabala as a false 9 in 4-6-0. The boys may react, as teams who’s manager has recently been relieved often do, and take the game to LA. Alhassan and Songo’o both looked good before their forced omissions, Kimura’s making a home debut, Mosquera will hopefully shore the defence up. But LA are reigning Champions. Yes, Arena’s team have been very poor at times this year, but their form is on the up.

Either way… yet again (and I’ve only been here for 6 weeks)… it’s going to be fucking interesting.


One response to “Portland Timbers v LA Galaxy – Preview

  1. Pingback: Portland Timbers 3 – 5 LA Galaxy | #RCTID·


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