Jack Jewsbury has been a different, better player these past two games (including the Open Cup). His success has been a little confidence, a little comfort and a lot of James Marcelin.
What a revelation.
If you just watched Marcelin during the course of the game, you wouldn't think he had a huge impact. He is disrupting passes, making tackles and staying home in his defensive role, but his distribution, while adequate, is not great, and he isn't facilitating much in the way of offense. His biggest contribution has come in the form of giving Jewsbury more of a free role in the middle. What more is there to say, Marcelin is just solid as a holding midfielder. It's a move many Timbers fans have been asking for. Jewsbury isn't a great attacking midfielder, but he is solid on the ball and is producing. He's not asked to track back as much, and generally didn't have to as Marcelin made enough of an impact in ball stopping.
Most of the changes for the better did include personnel. David Horst was dandruff shampoo above Goldthwaite in the back and has won that spot. In fact, I think once Futty Danso returns, Goldthwaite will be fourth on the depth chart at center back behind Brunner, Horst and Futty. The other big change was Kalif Alhassan on the outside (trading with Jeremy Hall at parts of the game). As Mr. Ryan Gates pointed out in his review, Alhassen was essentially the attacking mid in this match.
Both Hall and Alhassen pinched in quite a bit, and not just when the ball was on opposite fields for defensive purposes, but offensively, too. This was to allow both outside backs, Steve Purdy and Rodney Wallace, space to push, which both did. By all accounts the midfield was much better.
The Timbers are still having problems getting the ball to the forwards in good areas. There still seems to be a bit of a buffer between the midfield and the forwards, with most of the balls still coming from the back four. Both Purdy and Wallace aren't serving early enough balls. By this I mean forty to fifty yards out on the diagonal for the forwards and outside midfielders to run onto. The ball should be played while the defenders (of the opposing team) are still tracking back. This is especially effective when you have some speed, which the Timbers do in Perlaza, Hall and Alhassen (and Nagbe and Zizzo). It is great that the Timbers outside backs are getting to the end line and sending in balls, but if the defense has a choice they rather win a ball when they are set and moving away from their goal than on their heels or better for the offense, having to turn around and chase towards their own goal. Also, the service is still under hit. Jewsbury looked better on free kicks and corners, but for the most part, the Timbers' run of play crossing is still poor. What makes it worse is that if comes from the Timbers outside backs, the Timbers are much more susceptible to counter attacks.
Because of this poor service, the forwards are getting underused. Perlaza especially, was pretty irrelevant, and is becoming more so as the games go on. He looks frustrated, and the few chances he's had, he has deferred by passing/crossing. It's not time to panic yet, because he has the skills, but I worry that his frustration will bring down his game. Here's hoping that getting a goal rejuvenates him.
This game was definitely a game the Timbers could have won, but I didn't expect them to. But ties on the road, after not playing a home game yet is a pretty solid result. Darlington Nagbe got his first minutes, and even in limited time, with nerves in his first game, you can just see 'it.' Nagbe has pace, technical ability and a good work rate. Once he and Zizzo man the outsides, I think the Timbers will be OK.
Lastly, it is early, but I can't help thinking that John Spencer wasn't quite prepared for this. He's a young guy, who was a fiery player but his personnel (lineup) moves don't seem sharp. He seemed to dismiss the USSF 2 players from a year ago and throw in MLS 'Veterans' like Lowry and Goldthwaite. He did go with Pore as one of our outside midfielders the past to weeks, but the choices were limited, and obviously it did not work out. Just because you are an "experienced" player doesn't make you a better player. I don't know the whole story and I am not at practices, but it seems obvious, and I think most fans would agree that Marcelin and anyone but Goldthwaite should have gotten looks earlier. That said, Spencer seems to be on the right track now and I cannot wait until the Timbers are at full strength.
Until next match.
Does Coach John Spencer finally have a grasp on the Timbers lineup/personnel?
Yes - on the right track (13 votes)
No - should have left his opening day starting lineup intact (0 votes)
Maybe - too early to tell (12 votes)
Not until we bring McKinley Tennyson back! (2 votes)
27 total votes