I know you are sitting there trying to figure out what I am smoking and how I am going to justify that statement. Well you will just have to read on to find out how I do justify that statement. So let's start with a minor tweak and add a couple of words to the statement, it really should read "Portland has the league's best defense over the last 2 months of the season."
We all know the first two months had a few let down games were the defense did not look good. However despite not looking good in the first two months the defense has improved over last year and right now have the best defense in the league over the last 2 months of play.
2011 vs 2012
In 2011 through June 19th the Timbers had played 14 games and had given up a total of 22 goals. Of those 22 goals 16 of them came in 7 games. If you do the math that means Portland only gave up 1 goal or less in 7 games. Of those 7 games Portland had a shutout in 3 games.
In 2012 through last Sunday's game, their 14th, Portland has given up 17 goals. Of those 17 goals 10 of them occurred in 4 games and those 4 games were during a 5 game stretch from the last week in March to the end of April. Which means Portland has given up 1 goal or less in 10 of their 14 games.
Either way you look at 2011 vs 2012 the defense has gotten better. If you only look at the last 6 games it paints an even better picture of this years defense. Last year in games 8 through 14 Portland gave up 8 goals with two games of 3 goals. In 2012 in games 8-14 Portland has given up 4 goals with none of them multiple goal games.
Portland vs the league
Comparing last season versus this season for Portland only shows how Portland has improved but does not show how good the defense is compared to the rest of the league. If you look at the overall season stats Portland actually looks like a middle of the road defensive team. Below I ranked each conference based on Goals Against Average.
|Sporting Kansas City||15||20||15||5||1.00|
|New England Revolution||15||20||20||0||1.33|
|New York Red Bulls||16||31||24||7||1.50|
|Seattle Sounders FC||16||19||16||3||1.00|
|Real Salt Lake||17||28||19||9||1.12|
|San Jose Earthquakes||16||31||19||12||1.19|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||16||18||19||-1||1.19|
As you can see Portland is 6th best in the Western Conference but is very close to being in the top 4, within .2, and over all is the 9th best team in the league. If you look at total goals allowed Portland is the 5th best team in the league with only 17 allowed.
Of course of those 17 Portland allowed 10 of them in a 5 game span. If you only looked at the last 6 games for the whole league you see a very different picture of Portland's defense as compared to the rest of the league. In the last 6 games Portland has allowed only 4 goals while the league average over the same 6 games was 8.8 goals.
Now check out the GAA for the league over the last 6 games (courtesy of Timbersinsider Kelly McClain):
Goals Against, and Goals Against Average for the past 6 matches:
POR - 4 - 0.67
CLB - 5 - 0.83
CHV - 6 - 1.00
DC - 7 - 1.17
PHI - 7 - 1.17
RSL - 7 - 1.17
LA - 8 - 1.33
NE - 8 - 1.33
SJ - 8 - 1.33
VAN - 8 - 1.33
CHI - 9 - 1.50
COL - 9 - 1.50
DAL - 10 - 1.67
NY - 10 - 1.67
SKC - 10 - 1.67
MTL - 11 - 1.83
SEA - 12 - 2.00
TOR - 12 - 2.00
HOU - 14 - 2.33
As you can see there have been quite a few teams struggling defensively over the last 6 games but Portland and Columbus have not been.
The biggest reason why Portland has been so good defensively is because of the introduction of 2 players. Jack Jewsbury and Steven Smith have been consistent defensively on the outside of the defense. With that consistency the CBs have been able to actually do their job rather then be pulled out wide to cover for defensive mistakes of the outside backs.
Now that the defensive has been shored up it is now up to the offense to win games.