Game Flow: Despite the Result the Portland Timbers Are Steadily Improving

Don't walk towards the light Gaston!! - Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers may have had another frustrating game and the result may be disappointing but the team continues to improve.

Another frustrating draw but let's remember how last year started with three early goals given up and twice we came from behind to tie. In fact, I believe this happened in the first four games of the season. It is not about how you start, it is about how you finish. Here is the game flow:

Kickoff-15'

Chicago looked like they wanted to attack early and often, while the Timbers had a couple really good counter attacks in the early moments of the match. The transition from defense to offense was even faster than last game for the Timbers and this was already a headache for Chicago's defense. The transitions left Chicago's defenders out to dry on a couple of occasions and this meant they had to foul Portland's attacking players, usually Maximiliano Urruti.

15-Goal Against

The game settled down after the first 15 with Chicago owning a lot of the possession and giving Portland's two CBs a whole lot of trouble. The outside backs would be farther up the field and the long balls played by Chicago would leave them on an island. Chicago was able to beat the CB's when they were pulled out wide on a couple of occasions and created chances.

After the Goal- 32'

Portland possessed the ball and had passing sequences of more than 10 passes within minutes of the goal. This was short-lived as Portland couldn't maintain the possession and they couldn't corral Chicago's forwards. One reason for the very short possession sequences was the lack of switches during the offensive possessions. When Portland did utilize the switch Chicago had to adjust their defense and this created openings for Portland to exploit.

32'-Half

This part of the game was much the same as before the goal with a lot of chances for Chicago and Portland having trouble creating the chances. Chicago was willing to milk the clock and take their time on all restarts and Portland was the exact opposite. They were playing with a sense of urgency already and it showed towards the end of the half. Unfortunately Portland's urgency did not bear fruit and they entered the half down one goal, but it could have been a lot more the way the defense was playing.

Restart-60'

Diego Valeri, Gaston Fernandez and Darlington Nagbe all switched positions coming out at the half as it looked like Porter was going to try and get Gaston on the ball more. At first this ploy seemed to work as Gaston looked more comfortable in the middle of the field and got involved more often than in the first half. Having Nagbe switch to the left and Valeri on the right was probably done so that Valeri could get forward and to keep Jack Jewsbury at home. Essentially it looked like a 3-4-1-1 formation on offense.

It looked like it might work as Portland created more dangerous chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half than they did all of the first half.

60-75'

Porter looked to inject even more width into the attack by taking out Urruti and inserting Steve Zakuani. The sub did pick up the team's energy, but the quality in Chicago's box was still lacking. Quality was lacking so much that even after Sean Johnson whiffed on a clearance at the top of the box and left the goal so wide open that an easy pass would have tied the game up, Will Johnson's shot rolled wide of the post.

75-Goal For

Portland's sense of urgency and the changes from the subs added a lot to Portland's attack, and while the quality was lacking for most of the match all it would take was one in the back of the net to possibly start the flood. The first goal came in after a great passing sequence in the box to get a shot for Nagbe which was saved and pushed right to the feet of Gaston.

After the goal-90'

Portland continued to press for the winning goal and it was helped out by a second yellow on Patrick Nyarko after he fouled Diego Chara to break up a counter. Portland was able to gain even more possession but it also forced Chicago into a counter attack style even more. The game would come down to who wanted it more and after expending all their energy just to get the equalizer Portland was not able to find the energy to overcome giving up the first goal.

Observations

  • A lot of empty seats right before kick off. Sunday afternoon games always seem to have this issue.

  • Between last week's game and this one Portland has had more shots blocked than I can remember during any stretch last year. People are starting to bunker it appears.

  • Fernandez looked out of sorts in the first half and despite his supposed ability to play on the wing it looks like he is more comfortable in the center of the pitch.

  • Michael Harrington has upped his game and it shows that his call up to USMNT was no joke.

  • Chicago likes to play a long ball knock down game, which was tough for the two CBs to handle. #7 and #24 were especially difficult.

  • Valeri did not have an impact on the game until he was moved out to the right.

  • Portland needs an out-and-out winger on either the left or the right, especially one with speed which requires extra help. (More on that later in the week.)

  • As much as I hate the PK call you cannot put your hands on someone in the box or even bump into them. It will be called 7/10 times. (Despite the fact that it was a flop!)

  • Everyone just breathe. Things will get better. I promise.

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