So instead of staying up til 4am and watching a pixelated-to-shit stream, I was able to TiVo the Timbers/LA game, and watch it in the morning. The wife and kids don’t really get why I’m following Portland, or maybe it’s that they’re annoyed that even though it’s pre-season/post-Euros, I’m still watching football. Either way, I was in my PJs, eating my porridge, wearing my No Pity scarf, wishing I was at Jeld-Wen Field. Firstly, let me say, given the week leading up to this match, the build up and first 10 minutes only affirmed my burgeoning love for this club. Jeld-Wen was beautiful. When Boyd put us 1-0 up, it was beautiful. Unfortunately, the score didn’t stay the same, but the support did. I’ve grown accustomed to this level of die-hardism, as I’d imagine most have, but even though we shipped 5 goals – what a reaction from the Timbers Army.
In saying that, I’m going to jump straight into my dissection of the game. In a 5-3 game, there’s going to be plenty of rhetoric floating about; I don’t particularly want to clog it up with anything. What I will say is that as a relative newcomer to this club, I am going to attempt to keep a clear mind on Gavin Wilkinson, and judge him purely on results and performance. I’ve got my preconceptions on him stored somewhere else – they’ll no doubt get wheeled out, if it all goes tits up. Oh, and there’s less stats than usual… they just don’t tell the story this time…
There were only a few changes made going into this match – although more than what we’d expected. One thing I have to commend Wilkinson on is the formation. It was a variant of what I think Spencer had envisioned in his failed 4-3-3 formation against Real Salt Lake. Fair play to GW for being able to communicate the structure of the team more effectively than John Spencer did.
Here at #RCTID, I’d recently bemoaned the Horst/Futty partnership that leaked 8 goals in the 4 games they’d played together. In my preview, I’d hoped that Mosquera had been drafted in – he was. Shows me what I know. He was the only change in defence.
The midfield is where it was all-change – Wilkinson introducing a two-tier, 5-man midfield. With Diego Chara suspended, we had the veritable Jack Jewsbury and Lovel Palmer partnership designated to the 2 DM slots – tier 1. I got it wrong in my Preview, as I’d expected Eric Alexander to get the nod ahead of Lovel. After being unceremoniously hoisted off at half-time, I bet you EA will be pissed if he doesn’t get a start in the middle against Chivas.
In our 2nd tier, we had Alexander out left, Darlington Nagbe in the middle, and Kalif Alhassan on the right. I’m really, really uncertain of Alexander in this position. I think he worked well out wide on the left when we were using Spenny’s Diamond, as it balanced a lack of defensive cover from the attack-minded Nagbe and Alhassan/Songo’o/Zizzo. Playing as an out-and-out left winger doesn’t suit Eric – given this position is unnatural to him, a solid-ish performance was had.
GW then plumped for Boyd up top by himself, rather than Danny Mwanga. He had a poor game against Colorado, barely getting a touch. Boyd is a man who can (and has) lead the line and will make something out of a half-attempt. Our first goal showed that with aplomb.
All in all, I was happy with the changes, and I think most people were. To be honest, I still am quite happy with the way we set out
What a fantastic start. It was absolutely what most people had been hammering on about all season. Supply to Kris Boyd. I was very impressed with cross from Alhassan, I’d not seen an early cross whipped onto the front post like that in ages. I thought he did really well to hit it into that dangerous territory. The key for Kalif now (and for ever winger at PTFC) is to do it on a consistent basis. It was the only successful cross he had all night, and it came in the first 3 minutes.
In saying that, it’s a marked improvement on previous games. You can see that he’s attempting the earlier crosses, and he’s mixing up his delivery. To spin a negative, you can see that the full-back has worked out exactly what he’s doing (from the first goal) and has pushed Alhassan back, forcing him to cross early. The out come is that the crosses are too deep, and too close to the keeper. He’s young though, hopefully he can work on this part of his game.
To the goal itself, it looked like a simple finish. However, judging the ball and getting in front of your marker is difficult, never mind then having to steer it towards goal – the goal from which he was running away from. I was delighted for Boyd, he showed the type of poacher he is, something that you can’t teach anybody. Despite this excellent start, it went a little downhill from there…
HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU GIVE DAVID BECKHAM!??!!??!
The above subtitle is a verbatim comment from the notes I was taking whilst watching the match. Not happy was I. Maybe I’m being harsh on Jack Jewsbury here, but as Captain, I want to see him bollocking every last one (including Perkins) of the players who stood in front of Beckham and watched him ping a wonder goal. Although it was a great finish, Beckham hits those all day in training. It can’t be goal of the season because he had no one get in his way. Palmer points at Alexander to close him down, who is too far away.
Certainly one way of putting it, but I believe there to be an element of truth in this. Beckham got the ball and EVERYONE backed off. I guarantee if it’d been Chabala on the ball, they’d fucking close him down. Regardless as to what team he’s on. There’s 4 directly around him, in order of who should close him down. 1. Palmer is picking up the wrong player. Mosco and Horst have him covered. 2. Jewsbury, in fairness, is with a player also – but he’s physically closest to Beckham. 3. Alexander should also be closing him down, yes, but he’s physically furthest away. 4. Nagbe could’ve attempted to put pressure on – but really, it isn’t his job. Blame falls on Palmer because a) he noticed it and did nothing but point and back off, b) his job was to go tête-à-tête with the LA midfield and prevent exactly this from happening – Beckham was his man.
From the excellent 36 yard finish, to Beckham’s “Maybe we should just go for it?” celebratory shrug – our boys lost trust. It was the first punch to land in a heavyweight fight. They cottoned on to our weaknesses and they completely and utterly exploited us.
Landon Donovan (referred to hear-after as “Landycakes”) was pivotal in their fightback. As nauseating as he is, he usually is their spearhead. He won the foul off an incredibly-naive-for-28-y/o-vet Kimura foul, right in the spot Beckham preys on. For the record, Beckham will have hit tens of thousands of free kicks from this area. Donovan was always going down, he’s an idiot if he doesn’t. Kimura (and the rest) should’ve been prepped for this happening. The fact is, just like the first goal, they shouldn’t need to be reminded. They should know that (arguably) the World’s Most Famous Player likes a free-kick or two – don’t give away fouls in this area. To extend on the “heavyweight fight” comparison, just look at the wall we set out to defend Beckham’s free kick. Three LA players tacked onto the end of it. What did we do? Nothing. They were taking the piss out of us. We were on the ropes, and they were pounding on our ribcage, toying with us, waiting to finish us off. We should be pushing those 3 players out of the way, Perkins should be screaming at his wall, we should be remonstrating with the referee. We didn’t. Beckham lifted the ball over the heads of his own players… 2-1.
The penalty… gah… yeah. Even though Kosuke seemingly had a good game (84 passes in total, success rate of 81%, 2 successful crosses and a goal), and in some respects that’s correct, he also had a hideous game in other areas. 2 stupid fouls conceded – they were akin to an overweight, gassed 5-aside player unable to stop himself from taking out his opponent. They were enough to concede 2 goals. His defensive contribution didn’t shape up to much either – 0 tackles won, 1 interception, 1 clearance, 0 blocked crosses. If you compare this to Sean Franklin, LA Galaxy full-back, you’ll see that even though LA won in style, but conceded freely, he put a shift in. Franklin clocked up an 81% pass success rate, 1 assist, 4 interceptions, 8 clearances and 6 recovering tackles.
I really like Kimura and think he will contribute to the team once he beds in, but currently, he leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to his defensive performances.
The Killer Goal
For me, at 3-1, I actually believed we could come back into the game. I didn’t particularly believe that we’d played hideously badly on the whole. As per usual, there were some isolated lapses in concentration (okay, so maybe I’ve embraced #BeliefBeyondReason a bit too literally) but either way, a 2 goal deficit can be turned around after only 26 minutes of play, especially at Jeld-Wen.
The goal that killed the game off, beyond all doubt, was the fourth. You could argue that it was Beckham’s first that turned the worm, the freekick hit our confidence, and the penalty rubbed salt into the wound. But I felt the 4th sealed the game – our back four lost all discipline after that. It was also the reason Palmer was hauled off.
Guess what? We didn’t learn. We conceded a sloppy 5th goal in exactly the same manner. Just imagine if we hadn’t and we’d got it back to 4-3… just saying. Horst should be covering the front post, Mosquera can see where Keane is… exactly the same as goal 4.
Possession is nine tenths… apparently.
Essentially, it was all about the first half. The below .gif’s show successful passes in green, unsuccessful passes in purple, and it shows them in 5 minute batches.
Portland Timbers Passing – 1st Half
LA Galaxy Passing – 1st Half
0-5 minutes – The game began at a frenetic pace with us, obviously, edging it. We completed 31 of 43 passes to LA’s 20 of 29. We play the ball around the pitch, from the back, almost everyone getting a touch. We’re varying our approach, attempting to play the ball up both flanks. We’re containing LA very, very well. Sarvas (#8) limited to short passes in his own half, Beckham only attempting 2 passes. It’s this period that we score in.
5-10 minutes – our passing becomes a bit longer, a bit stretched, but we’re still getting joy down the right handside, with Kimura and Alhassan linking up well. LA are still being limited to passing the ball through their back 4, but are retaining the ball a lot better.
10-15 minutes – The action picks up. 73 passes attempted by both teams, opposed to 47 in the last period. Both Portland and LA retain the ball quite well, keeping the ball in the middle of the park, limited to wayward crosses.
15-20 minutes – The period in which LA equalise. We’ve done well with a 89.6% pass completion rate (26/29) as are LA – 86.4%. Highlighting the fact that Beckham’s goal was relatively out of the blue.
20-25 minutes – Whilst our amount of passes drops considerably, we’re not losing the ball an awful lot – we attempt 17 passes and complete 14. LA, however, attempt 32 and complete 28. They’re obviously edging it here, in terms of quantity, and I think this period sets them up for the next. The only goal we concede here is the free-kick.
25-30 minutes – This is the most surprising showing of all. Whether it’s because there’s more dead “celebration time”, I’m not sure. In saying that, only 35 passes were attempted in total – Portland completing 14 and LA completing 12. Two goals are conceded – Donovan’s penalty and Keane’s well-worked break-away goal that emanated from the right.
30 minutes onwards – LA sit right back. We, shell-shocked, don’t quite know what to do. We retain the ball well, but we’re mainly passing round the back 4, unable to work a way down either flank. We score in the 30-35minute period, possession-wise our best period of the first half – 33 of 38 passes successfully.
It was “one of those games”. We were poor in defence for each of the goals. The first was a real schoolboy error and showed a lack of awareness. Goals 2 and 3 were, unfortunately for him, Kosuke Kimura’s fault. Needless fouls. The fact that he gave away 2 goal-yielding fouls without picking up a yellow, highlights the soft nature of the fouls. They were the only 2 fouls he gave away all game. Goals 4 and 5 were typical Robbie Keane finishes, hands up – they tore us apart. The left-hand side of our defence was exposed, the center backs didn’t deal with it accordingly.
As the scoreline suggests, it was one of the stranger games I’ve witnessed. The proverbial see-saw tipped heavily in favour of our attacking game. You’d probably liken it to the fat kid jumping on one end, propelling the unaware little skinny kid (our defence) 5 foot into the air. It seems to the case at the moment – we improve in one area, at the detriment of another.
Gavin Wilkinson has a lot to do in 2 or 3 short days. Hopefully the boys will look at the video and pick up on their mistakes. I’m kinda glad GW has put the defensive lapses down to the tempestuous week beforehand, reading into it far too much, does it mean we didn’t do our homework correctly? I hope against Chivas, we come out (defensively at least) a much stabler side. I hope we’re drilled and well-versed in dealing with what they throw at us. I hope the returning Chara goes some way to doing this. More importantly, I hope we take the game to a team that we are better than. As ever… we’ll #BelieveBeyondReason… and we’ll just have to see which Portland Timbers turns up…
Am I right/wrong? Let me know what you think. What changes would you make to our current line-up? Tweet us or discuss below!