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Can Portland finally exorcise their road demons?

What Mosquera did to slow down Eddie Johnson on Saturday he needs to replicate against Steven Lenhart (or Alan Gordon) today.
What Mosquera did to slow down Eddie Johnson on Saturday he needs to replicate against Steven Lenhart (or Alan Gordon) today.

The Portland Timbers go from playing one playoff bound team to another as they travel down to the Bay Area to face league leading San Jose Earthquakes. This will be a tough game as Portland has a league worst road GD of -22 and San Jose has the league best home GD with +21.

However, Andy has said there is a chance Portland could pull it off -- and I believe him -- but Portland has to work on some things.

San Jose's strike force play similar roles to Seattle's top two. Steven Lenhart plays the bruising, get in, and muck things up, and biggest prick on the field role. Meanwhile Chris Wondolowski plays the more skilled, work off of Lenhart, and be in the right place at the right time role. It takes a lot of communication to defend both of these players and it takes a 90+ minute game with no mental lapses.

Here is an example of how well Portland defended against Seattle:

SJ away preview #1

Usually it was Fredy Montero who would drop off into the midfield to collect the ball, but this time it is Eddie Johnson. For the most part David Horst was the one to track the striker who made that run, while Hanyer Mosquera tracked the other striker. This worked really well, as Horst was able to either force Montero to pass the ball back or poke the ball away when he turned.

If the two CB's can work in tandem like they did (except for the goal), Portland has a chance at keeping a clean sheet. Of course, then they have to score to win, which was a problem during the run of play against Seattle, mainly because the outside backs and the CM's were not on the same page at times. For example see below:

SJ away preview #2

Kosuke Kimura has received the ball on the wing and Seattle has dropped into a more defensive position. They are not pressuring him but they are cutting off the initial passing lanes. What needs to happen here is Jewsbury has to find the space behind Montero a little quicker while Mosco shows for the ball. This would give Kimura at least two options -- more if Zizzo also gave him an outlet on the wing. Instead of all of that happening Kimura sees nothing and immediately hoofs the ball up the field.

Portland needs to control the ball more; to do that they need to involve Darlington Nagbe in open spaces. But Nagbe can no longer surprise people with his new-found energy and attack, because teams are closing him down. Here is an example:

SJ away preview #4

Once Nagbe received the ball, four players surrounded him to ensure he couldn't turn and get up field. Part of the problem was that the Seattle defense had to worry about only one player ahead of Nagbe, and part of it was the fact that our two wings (Songo'o isn't pictured, but he is near the kick off spot) were in the middle of the pitch. Our wings need to draw at least two to them near the touch lines, and Dike has to occupy the two CB's to open up more space for Nagbe.

If Portland can shut down San Jose's strikers and play defense like the did for 95 minutes and 30 seconds, they have a shot at getting a result. If they want to win their wings have to do a better job of occupying multiple defenders and then passing rather than dribbling into those defenders. When they do draw the defenders, they need to play the outlet pass to the outside backs who then can find the CM in space. The CMs can then turn and attack.

Kris Boyd

I have been of the opinion Boyd has needed to get a start and expected to see him against Seattle, but it was not to be. Boyd looked good with the reserves, and now that Zizzo and Songo'o are starting to find their roles which can only help Boyd. Boyd will make the runs behind the defense, which will force the two CBs to focus on where he is and not where Nagbe is. Boyd could be what Portland needs to score during the run of play against San Jose.