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Portland Timbers: A group of individuals playing a team game

The Portland Timbers have not scored from the run of play since April 17. Let me say that again, April 17th. However no one took notice, or least pointed out that this was a major concern, until these last 2 game because Portland was scoring and winning. We all do this, even I did. Portland was winning so not a lot was going wrong. However the Timbers have now lost 2 in a row and have not looked good in either game. 

So the question is why are we not scoring from the run of play? There are a lot of answers that could fit here, such as:

  • The Forwards are not working well together. 
  • The Outside mids are not giving the Forwards quality service. 
  • The Outside backs are terrible. 
  • There is no Play-making Midfielder, a "#10" 
  • Nagbe is hurt.
  • The Timbers have good athletes but no good "soccer" players
  • It is all Kenny's fault!
I have read all of these on this blog and each one of them is true, well exempt maybe for the last one. No one player is to blame for all of this. In fact I really believe the biggest culprit for the way the Timbers have played since the Dallas game is the Portland Timbers. The team has not played well, each of the players and even the coach have had a hand in the lack of scoring.

Find out why after the jump:

Portland has been playing like a team of individuals. I know some of you are saying, "they still pass to each other". Of course they do but that doesn't mean they aren't playing as a team. For example our wings are trying to take on 2 or 3 guys almost every time they get even a little space on the outside and this is never going to work. However almost half the time this is because no one has shown for the ball, or at least given them an option that works. It is as if the ball is a light and all of the players run away from it as if they are cockroaches. 

The only players consistently showing for the ball are the defense for a back pass and you can never score going backwards. Even when the ball goes back to the defense they rarely swing the ball to create some confusion in the defense and create different holes in their line. 

To illustrate my point lets take a look at some of the formation pictures below. (warning image heavy content)

football formations

Okay the ball has been played out of the back after the Timbers have won possession. First off they play the long ball to Cooper or Perlaza. Where are they going to go with this ball? Lay it off to space and hope there is someone there? Flick it on to the other forward and hope he gets to it? The Timbers have no patience when they win a ball in the back they just hoof it forward and hope for the best. Every single one of our defenders does this. Granted there is a time and a place for that but where is the possession? Where is Diego Chara or Captain Jack Jewsbury as an outlet? They are both concerned with the attacking players of the other team. 

Now when the wingers get the ball this is what they should see:

football formations

This time the Timbers finally played for possession and found one of their play-makers. However what choices does he have? Play it forward to Kenny Cooper who is being man marked? Play it over the top to Jorge Perlaza for a foot race? Wait for the central midfielders to catch up and play it either back to them or to the middle? 

This is what they do see:

football formations

So he usually decides to try and beat the two defenders marking him because he just doesn't see the easy option. Where is the easy option here? Really there isn't one because Cooper is trying to race to the corner and Perlaza is too far away, the CM's are so far behind the play and Jeremy Hall or Rodney Wallace is right on top of the winger. So the two options are play the long ball or dribble through 3 defenders. 

The Offensive shape is terrible and limiting the Timbers ability to actually score from the run of play. It wasn't until Darlington Nagbe came in during the Chivas Game and changed the formation that the Timbers looked halfway decent. So lets take a look at why:

football formations

As you can see when the ball was played wide, after a turnover, to either Chara or Sal Zizzo there wasn't a huge patch of no man's land right in the center of the pitch. By changing to a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond the Timbers finally filled that space. 

Now this doesn't always need a sub and a formation change by John Spencer for this space to be filled. Chara and Jewsbury are together playing to deep in defense. One needs to fill that space, it can be either of them at any given time they just need to figure it out. I would prefer Chara to be there more then Jewsbury but Jewsbury is just as capable a passer. 

In some ways I think time will make this flaw seem less a mountain and more a mole hill as the team gets more chemistry and learns how to play off of each other but until then I think it needs to be recognized.