It is that time of the year to start speculating on exactly what the Portland Timbers' roster needs are for the next year. For starters we need to take a look at the most used formations by John Spencer and the Timbers and then fill in what the Timbers still have on the roster.
The Timbers employed a 4-4-2 for almost the first half of the season. Without going into too much detail on the other positions the midfield is there to link the defenders with the attacking players. Ground breaking thought there but it really seemed like during the middle of the season the Timbers completely forgot about that fact. In the 4-4-2 that Spencer employed he used a diamond midfield where the two central midfielders had two separate roles. One was to be more of an attacking threat while the other was meant to sit back and patrol right in front of the central defenders.
The outside mids roles were to use the length of the field and attack down the wings. Once they were deep enough they would need to get the ball into the penalty area and if they were stymied they need to pull the ball back and try and start the processes of swinging the ball to the other side of the field.
The Other formation used towards the end of the year was a 4-5-1. The biggest difference between the 4-5-1 and the 4-4-2 is the fact the addition midfielder in the central area of the field. What this does is in essence adds two attacking mids instead of 1 in the 4-4-2, or can add 2 defensive mids to clog the middle of the field.
It goes without saying the Timbers need their central attacking mids and defensive mids to be able to receive a pass in traffic and be able to maintain possession
What the Timbers Have:
According to the descriptions above and how the Timbers played in each formation here is what the Timbers have already covered.
- Speed on the wings- Sal Zizzo and Darlington Nagbe
- Defensive Midfielders- Diego Chara, James Marcelin, Jack Jewsbury, Eric Alexander
- Attacking Mids- Darlington Nagbe, Kalif Alhassan and to some extent Diego Chara
- Possession Based Mids- Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan, Eric Alexander, and Darlington Nagbe
What the Timbers Need:
- Outside mids who can create goal scoring opportunities
What the timbers need is for better wing play. The attacking process in a 4-4-2 revolves around the wings and that could be the outside defenders or mids. In the 4-5-1 it too relies upon the wings but more so upon the target forward and a quick counter attack. Either way the Timbers need to address the lack of production from their outside players.
There are a variety of ways the Timbers could address this issue. First they could sign a starting quality outside wing(s) and force Zizzo and Alhassan to earn their playing time. Second they could outside backs and move Mike Chabala and Rodney Wallace to midfield, in Wallace's case I think it is his better spot.
In the end the wing play needs to improve either through signings, trades or movement within the roster for the Timbers to be a playoff contending team.