Much has been made about Caleb Porter's more nuanced take on tactics as compared to John Spencer or Gavin Wilkinson. Where in the past the Timbers were often taken apart by the adjustments of their foes (see last year's games against Chivas, Chivas, or Chivas), they have become a team that makes smart adjustments of their own.
On Sunday those adjustments were evident, as the Timbers brought more and more players into the attack against Chivas USA, even sending centerbacks Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Futty Danso forward for occasional forays into the midfield, something the team had not done in previous games this season.
After practice yesterday, I asked Caleb Porter about the defenders getting forward:
It was something that we saw tactically in the game as it was playing out. They were man marking us, for the most part, all over the field, and they left our two center backs two [on] one.
In most situations, this would not present the opportunity that it did for the Timbers against Chivas on Sunday. However, with the domination of the Timbers' midfield, in particular the fantastic work rate and recognition of when cover is required at the back from Diego Chara and Will Johnson, moving an extra body forward made a big difference in the Timbers' attempts to break down the packed in Chivas defense.
I felt that Baptiste could step into the midfield and start attacks from there, and when he did that they really had no answer for it because they basically let our center back have the ball. It was just a little rotation. Baptiste stepped in, Chara dropped in his spot, and it allowed us to start attacks that way and gave us time and space to play.
Recognizing the opportunity and finding a way to exploit it are two abilities that Porter has shown, both before and during games this season. If the Timbers can continue finding the weaknesses of their opponents and making these adjustments, the sky is the limit for what they can achieve.
Of course, having the personnel to implement these changes on the pitch is key. For Porter, the ability of Diego Chara and Will Johnson recognize when to stay back and when to get forward has been a large part of the team's success.
I think that as those two guys started to get more comfortable in reading each other and gained more of a chemistry together, I think it just became better and better. You can see they are sharing the responsibility defensively.
On Sunday, their coverage, and AJB's confidence with the ball at his feet, allowed the Timbers to make the adjustments necessary to break Chivas down.