After the LA game William and I were talking on the way down to the post-game conference with Gavin Wilkinson, and I asked him this question: "More negatives or positives to take away from that game?" His response was, "Two positives and three negatives." Which is probably an apt description for the LA game, but now there is a new LA opponent, one whose home record is worse than its road record.
In a nutshell, in order for Portland to pull out a result at Chivas USA, they need to continue playing offense like they did against the Galaxy, but they need to shore up their defense. I know every one of you could have written that sentence but sometimes stating the obvious is the only thing you can do for analysis. :)
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Five goals were given up in the last game, for which the defenders and Troy Perkins get the lion's share of the blame. For Troy he just did not look like he was commanding the defense and was a lot less vocal then he has been in the past. For the defenders it looked as if they were playing as individuals and not as a defensive unit.
Portland defenders can't play as individuals; in fact, no team can have their defensive team plays an individuals if they expect to have any chance at winning. The fact that this was, by my count at least, the eleventh different back four the Timbers have trotted out this season. Eleventh! Chemistry is a huge key to playing as a defensive unit, and having had eleven different back four line-ups just shows you have difficult it has been to get that chemistry. In fact, it was only the third time David Horst and Hanyer Mosquera had played together.
While the defenders and Perkins may get a lot of the blame for the five goals, I think the biggest reason Portland gave up five goals is the team shape in the midfield. LA is a team that thrives when given space and time to do what they want with the ball. I would say any professional should be comfortable and able to pick apart a defense when given time and space. The time and space were there for the Galaxy because Portland's midfield were flat way to often. Just look at this picture:
As you can see from this picture all of the midfielders are standing in a pretty straight line. When a midfield plays without pressuring the ball and also accounting for passing lanes and then plays in a flat line it takes only one pass to beat 4 players. Once those players are beat and they have to recover, it creates holes for their marks to get open and mass confusion occurs. When confusion occurs people decide to leave David Beckham open.
To get a sense of when Portland has played well defensively in the midfield I had to go all the way back to the Seattle game.
Obviously the line-up was different for the Seattle game, but you can see the same set up in this picture as the LA picture. The difference between the two pictures is Diego Chara. Here he has positioned himself to cover two people; he just re-positions himself depending on where the pass goes. This subtle change does not allow for a single pass to beat four players -- it may beat two or three, but it keeps pressure on the ball when the pass does beat those players. With pressure on the ball from the midfielders, the CBs or the outside backs do not have to push up the field in order to cover the pass. Not having the Timbers defenders out of position is the first step to having a stable back line.
With Darlington Nagbe playing as a withdrawn striker Kris Boyd looked to be playing on as a target striker which is not his strong suit. For Boyd to be dangerous he needs to get to the positions he can be dangerous, like the first goal against the galaxy. However, when Boyd did get into a good position and did make a good lay off, Nagbe did not take the shot. In order for Boyd to be effective as a target striker, he needs the players he sets up to actually take the shot. Nagbe has been too tentative around the box.
Boyd needs to keep making the runs, and Nagbe needs to fill the space Boyd creates by demanding so much attention.