Comparing the First Four Games of the Last Three Seasons

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

A look at how the first four games have gone for this season and the last two seasons.

Caleb Porter's first season as head coach of the Portland Timbers is now just over 10% complete with 4 games completed. Four games in a 34 game season is a very small sample size but we are going to use it anyway. The 2011 and 2012 seasons started off similarly in terms of points gained over the first 4 games but vastly different in the stats categories.

2011 Quick Recap: Through the first four games of the 2011 season Portland had three road games before hosting their first home. The first two games were 2-goal losses coming at the hands of Colorado (3-1) and Toronto (2-0). Each of those losses were in large part to early goals conceded, one in the 8th minute and the other in the 14th minute, coupled with the inability to recover after the early goal was conceded.

The third game was the first game in which Portland was able to earn a point and once again Portland conceded first, this time in the 22nd minute. However they were able to find the equalizer 16 minutes after conceding. Portland's home match was different as they scored the first three goals before giving up 2 in second half. Portland did add their fourth with 6 minutes to go for a 4-2 score line.

2012 Quick Recap: Portland started 2012 off with a bang and 3-1 win over Philly but gave up the first goal before scoring the final three goals of the game. Portland's second game was on the road against FC Dallas. In this game Portland gave up the first goal again before scoring the equalizer just after half (the one where John Spencer called the play by play).

Portland's third and fourth games were the beginning of two disappointing trends 2012 trends. The two trends were: losing on the road without scoring and giving up late goals. In the third game Portland gave up a first minute goal at New England and lost 1-0. In the fourth Darlington Nagbe scored a brace but Portland gave up 2 goals in the 89th minute and 93rd minute to lose 3-2 to Real Salt Lake.

2013 Quick Recap: Portland has been scored on first in each of their first four games but three times have battled back for the draw. In three of the games they have been down by two goals and twice have come back to tie the game.

Stats

2011

2012

2013

Points

4

4

3

Points on the road

1

1

2

Points at home

3

3

1

Goals For

6

6

7

Goals Against

8

6

8

Avg Shots

12

14

15.5

Avg Shots on target

3.75

5.5

5

avg Crosses

15

17.5

21

avg offsides

4.25

2.5

3.5

Yellow Cards

1.75

1.75

1

avg Total Passes

335.75

375.5

501.75

avg Passing Accuracy

69.5

71.5

79

There have been a few complaints about the number of points earned by the Timbers but if you look at it in terms of wins and losses it paints a slightly different story. In 2011 and 2012 the team lost twice, won once and tied once. In 2013 they have lost once and tied three times and I think the loss is the big key. Of course if they lose or tie again tomorrow against Houston they will be on a five-game winless streak but a win would leave the Timbers unbeaten in 4 of their first five games.

Defense was an issue in previous seasons, and it is an issue this season. Only the Chicago Fire has given up more goals than Portland. However, Portland's mistakes have generally been on individual mistakes rather than a systemic breakdown of the defense, unlike in previous seasons.

The offense has been a well-oiled machine as the shots, shots on target, crosses and passing stats show. In previous seasons the goals came in bunches and usually at home. Of the 2011 goals 4 of the goals came in one game at home and in 2012, 5 of the goals came in two games at home. Compare this to 4 goals at home and 3 goals at home and you can see the offense has been consistent no matter where the Timbers are playing.

I threw in Yellow Cards and Offside because of the perception that the Timbers had a lot of these in the previous two seasons. The first year Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza seemed to be caught offside quite often, but since that first season it looks as if the Timbers have returned to a normal level. Yellow Cards on the other hand have come down since the Timbers are no longer conceding possession to the other team and therefore fouling less.

Houston will be the toughest challenge for the Timbers in 2013; hopefully they will earn their first win and continue improving.

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