I would be lying if I said I was confident the Portland Timbers will get a result this weekend. Saturday's game and the run up to it is nothing like the last game these two teams played. Portland has progressed in baby steps only to take a giant step backward when they played on the road at Colorado. Seattle on the other hand ate their humble pie and have turned it around with 6 wins in their last 11 games.
With Seattle clicking on all cylinders Portland will have their hands full on Saturday. So let's take a look at what Portland needs to focus on in order to win.
No mental mistakes! I feel like a broken record when I say this almost every preview but Portland has not gone out and played mistake free soccer. In order to play mistake free soccer the defenders need to have a little more pride and grit. The pride will ensure they have the confidence to shut down Seattle's attacking options. Grit is needed because the physical battles come down to not skill but just plain heart and when you have a gritty nature to your play as a defender you win more of the physical battles.
The midfield is the key to winning the game. If you cut off the service to Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero they half tend to not loose interest in a game but fade. In order to cut off the service to the forwards Portland needs to play as one defensive unit from the midfielders all the way back to Donovan Ricketts. Just look at the initial ball which created the first goal Colorado scored on Portland last game:
For any professional soccer player that is way to much space that close to the box. Drew Moor easily has enough time to take another touch and then hit the cross into the box. Songo'o needs to be a little more focused on Defense and so does Sal Zizzo on the other wing or Portland's outside backs will be torched all game long.
The pic below is the result of the cross by Moor:
Kosuke Kimura is in a good position to clear the cross but inexplicably he attempts to flick the ball out for a corner. Did no one communicate with him he had someone on his back? Did he not feel the player on his back? All of these questions just lead me back to my first point with the defenders: NO MENTAL MISTAKES!
Whoever gets the start needs to be able to take up space and occupy both the CBs for the Seattle Sounders. If they can do that this will leave room for Nagbe and Chara to operate right behind him and this in turn opens up the runs down the wing by Songo'o and Zizzo. They also have to score when they get their one opportunity because they may only get 1.
I know Kimura mentioned Wallace playing in the back, specifically at left back, and this has raised some eyebrows for Timbers' fans. I can see why they would have Wallace back there for offensive purposes. Before the firing of Spencer both full backs joined in the attack regularly and this then caused shape problems when Portland transitioned from offense to defense. To combat this when Portland went to a modified 4-3-3 they only had 1 of their outside backs get forward on a consistent basis, and that FB was Smith.
When Smith joined the attack Portland's remaining three defenders rotated to a 3 man back line until Smith got back on defense. Wallace will be placed at LB because he will be filling the offensive role Smith provided over the last few games. Of course this means Wallace's 1v1 defending is also brought to the table and we know how that tastes on a night in, night out basis.
It could be a stroke of genius or another round of ammunition in the #GWOUT crowd's bandoleer.
My head says 2-0 loss and it could be worse. My heart says Portland rises to the occasion and really gives the TA something to be proud of this year and wins 2-1.