Much of the focus has been on the Timbers not scoring, including Spencer's own comments. I believe the emphasis should be on the Timbers failing to create chances in the first place. Stats after the jump.
Shots Created this Season: 155.
Only Chivas USA and Philadelphia have attempted fewer shots. Yes, there are times when players have passed when they should have taken a shot instead (hello, Darlington), but overall this statistic tells an important story. The emphasis should not be on finishing chances. The priority should be on creating them.
Central Midfield Influence.
Beckham+Juninho by the numbers.
- 72 successful passes.
- 25 tackled/possession lost.
- 1 assist.
- 19 defensive takeaways.
Nagbe+Chara by the numbers.
- 85 successful passes
- 32 tackled/possession lost.
- 0 assists.
- 39 defensive takeaways.
Yesterday was consistent with what we have seen this season. The good news is Portland has largely been able to shut down their opponents' central midfield in the run of play. Hence our better defense lately. We have a good defensive central midfield that tends to see plenty of time on the ball. The bad news is our central midfield has done very little with its touches.
Passing Tendencies in Central Midfield: Horizontal 1st, Backwards 2nd, Forward maybe. Maybe not.
The passing chalkboards reveal more of the story. Analyzing where the Timbers' central midfield passes tells us they tend to push the ball wide or backwards. And if you asked the casual fan who attacked more between Nagbe and Chara, I would bet most would say Nagbe was the more aggressive attacker.
If they did guess Nagbe, they would be wrong. Chara was more likely to pass the ball vertically, looking to connect with people in front of him. That isn't saying much. Of his 49 successful passes, I counted only 3 that were truly vertical. 1 of his unsuccessful passes was also more direct. So if you are scoring at home - 53 touches. 4 attempts to move the ball forward. Chara is a defensive midfielder, so maybe his lateral and backwards passing is not really a concern.
It is not just how we pass. It is where the touches occur. And do not occur.
Nagbe's passing patterns are concerning. He touched the ball only 39 times, only 9 times in the final third. And each time he had the ball near the opponent's goal, he pushed it wide. Want to know why our forwards looked isolated? Why they starve for service? Look no further.
This matches Nagbe's overall conservative play. He does not lose the ball much - only 3 times against LA. But his job is not to be conservative. That is Chara's job. If Nagbe is our more attacking midfielder, he must push the issue. Compare Beckham and Nagbe. Beckham touched the ball a lot more - 60 times total. He lost the ball 17 times, most of those pushing the issue and moving the ball vertically.
And that is OK. It is OK to push. It is OK to fail. It is not OK to not try. Portland's central midfield is not trying. They are not taking risks. And because they are not taking risks, they are not creating chances.
Central Midfield Summary.
Central midfield play is the #1, #2, and #3 issue on this team. It has been since the second half of last season. We see it when we watch the games, and the numbers reflect the story. If Nagbe is our attacking midfield answer (I doubt it), he must show for the ball much more. When he receives the ball, he must be willing to take more vertical risks to create opportunities.