Portland is looking to keep a couple of good streaks alive today, as they are undefeated during a full moon and have not been beat by an Eastern Conference team at home this year. With DC United looking for the full points to ensure they make the playoffs, and Portland possibly looking ahead to their Cascadia Cup clash against Seattle, this will be an interesting game. We could possibly see a repeat of the last time these two teams met and have an end-to-end soccer match with a lot of fireworks.
The last game the defenders actually did a decent job during the run play and didn't allow a goal -- of course, free kicks were another matter. They accomplished this feat by staying compact and keeping a good defensive shape, which you can see in the picture below.
Kosuke Kimura did well to step up and challenge the first pass and with the other defenders in a good position to help with the second ball to Fabian Espindola. The defenders will have to keep up the good communication and shape in order to earn the shutout.
This is where Portland needs to improve the most from the last game. Captain Jack Jewsbury really had a rough game and had trouble dealing with a very good pair of central midfielders. Rodney Wallace and Captain Jack did a good job tracking back and helping the backline but did very little going forward to help create the offense. Almost every time the CMs got the ball, they either passed it back to where it came from or passed it farther backwards. The next two pictures illustrate a typical sequence of passes for Portland last game.
As you can see Kimura has only a few options so he passes it to Jewsbury. Jewsbury has a couple of options he can try and hit Zizzo on the wing, play it back to Kimura or find something else. Jewsbury elects to dribble diagonally backwards towards the center of the pitch. Where he ends up here:
By dribbling to this area in the pitch he has really limited his options, and, instead of going for the best option, Smith on the Wing, he elects to play negative soccer and hits the ball back to Hanyer Mosquera. Mosco can't do much with it and plays a long ball to the forwards. Portland needs Darlington Nagbe or someone who can turn in a tight space and find players going forward and not backward in order to have any offensive attack.
Playing only with Danny Mwanga up front wasn't a bad idea but it didn't help because Mwanga is not as active as Bright Dike. Mwanga is in the middle of the Kris Boyd and Bright Dike scale -- like Boyd he likes to stay in the middle of the pitch, but he moves more than Boyd to track down balls. For Mwanga to be effective he needs to receive the ball to his feet and have the options around him to do something with the ball or space to attack defenders.
Portland needs more out of Mwanga -- or whoever is the target striker in order to be dangerous going forward.
I am feeling optimistic about this match, 2-0 Portland. Mosco off a corner and a PK!