We all know about the road woes of Portland in the 2011 season and almost every "expert" on the interwebs pointed to this very fact and pointed out that if Portland wanted to make some noise come play off time they would need to make some strides on the road. Winning on the road all comes down to mentality, meaning you have to be mentally prepared to receive no support from anyone besides someone in Timbers Green or Rose City Red.
On the road last year Portland was scored on first quite often, I believe it was 8 times in the first 20 minutes, and when that happened Portland rarely came back to get the first goal. In fact in all the games Portland played last year they scored first 16 times and of those times they only lost once and won 11 times. Fast starts were Portland's key last year but this year they proved they have the mental fortitude to go down, at home at least, and still come back to win.
Through out the rest of the year Portland's mental approach to the game will be key. However the mental side of the game is just part of it. Each road game will be bring a different set of challenges, this is obvious because he road game will be against different opponents. This Saturday might be the best opportunity for Portland to get off to a strong start on the road.
Dallas comes into this game with a lot of questions marks as to who will be starting. They will be without their offensive spark plug in Brek Shea and possibly both of their projected outside mids.Dallas likes to attack down the wing and the Timbers found out the hard way how easy it is for Dallas if a team lets them run wild on the wings. If Portland can shut down a lot of the service to Dallas' wings then containing Dallas gets easier.
To shut down the wings it is going to take a combination of things but to really understand how Portland can do this you just need to look at how Portland was able to shut down Philladelphia's wings, one of those wings was Freddy Adu and if you don't remember he played last Monday it was because Portland bottled him up.
Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury were instrumental in the second half in killing Philadelphia's attack. Just look at the total number recoveries both had, 16 together, in the early part of the game and then again in the second half. A recovery is a tackle or an interception of a pass and then maintaining possession to sustain an attack. Not only do they recover the ball well they also kept possession with their passes, Chara completed 44 passes and Jewsbury completed 38, as they had a total of
109 82 completed passes vs 27 uncompleted. This gives them a passing accuracy of 75% for the Timbers' two CMs.
Not only is their accuracy high but look at the times when they were making those passes vs when they had lulls (look at the by time bar below the field). The times they were the most active the when Portland was on the attack and when they were not was when Portland looked lost.(A complete side note, Troy Perkins had 15 successful passes to 7 unsucessful while Zac MacMath had 15 and 19.)
This is needed because if you look at MLS' chalkboard for the Dallas vs New York Game you can see that the person most involved in possession for FC Dallas is Daniel Hernandez who had 42 successful passes while the second best on Dallas had 30. As you can see from the formation Hernandez's role was not only a link from the defense to the CAMs but he plays a similar role to Captain Jack and he had 10 recoveries himself against New York.
If the Timbers can keep Hernandez from stringing together too many passes and force Dallas to play the long ball to their physical centerbacks Portland stands a good chance at pulling out the win and at the minimum obtaining a tie. Long story short.
Portland will win if: They control the wings and win the long balls once the wings are shut down.
Portland will lose if: They allow Dallas' wings to run free like they did last year and don't cut of the passes to the wings.