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How will Ryan Johnson fit into Portland's lineup?

An in depth look at how Toronto utilized Ryan Johnson last year and how Portland might use him.

Jeff Gross

Part of Portland's roster overhaul during this off-season has been to bring in players who have experience playing in MLS and who can play multiple positions. Ryan Johnson was one of those acquisitions. Ryan has been plying his trade consistently in MLS since 2008 with San Jose and Toronto FC and has played in 142 games during that span.

Ryan is listed as a forward but after looking over how Toronto used him this last season he could be also be used in the midfield. Last season Ryan played in 31 games, all of which he started, and during those games he scored 7 goals and had 5 assists. Overall Ryan had his second most productive season of his MLS career last year despite being on arguably the worst team in the league.

Positions Ryan Played during 2012

Last year Toronto used 4 different formations in the games Ryan played in. They used the 4-4-2 formation 18 times, the 4-3-3 formation 9 times, the 4-2-3-1 formation twice and the 4-2-2-2 formation twice. In those formations Ryan played 8 different positions but this doesn't mean he played in a lot of positions which called for a change in his playing style because most of them were attacking positions or variations of his forward position. (For examples of each formation just click the link)


While playing the 4-4-2 line-up Ryan played either the right or left forward position, 8 and 7 times, and more than likely during the game switched positions with his strike partner. He also played as the left mid in the 4-4-2 line-up three times. For examples on how he played at each of those I have included an example heat map for each position below.

Left Forward


Right Forward


As you can see from the above heat maps there are very few differences between the two positions and the slight differences can be attributed to the fact that they are two different games against two different opponents. Right forward and left forward are just generic titles as the two forwards change positions through out the game.

Left Mid


As you can see from this map that as a left mid in the 4-4-2 formation Ryan likes to get forward but does not play a lot of defense. Portland would need to have confidence in their left back who will be under constant pressure with very little defensive help from Ryan.


Toronto played a 4-3-3 last season 9 different times with Ryan Johnson in the line-up. Of those 9 times they used Ryan he played center forward 7 times and only played on the wing twice.

Center Forward


Left Wing (Forward)


Right Wing (Forward)


Looking at the three heatmaps from the different positions in the 4-3-3 you can see Ryan is a forward who moves and can turn up anywhere on the pitch. He does not restrict himself to one side of the field or the other and probably chases down balls.

How will Portland use him?

Caleb Porter likes forwards who move and put pressure on the opposition's defense and this is probably why Portland traded for Ryan. He is versatile enough that he can play any of the forward positions in a 4-3-3 and can even play the outside midfield position in a 4-4-2 but with the amount of midfielders Portland currently has on the roster it is hard to see Ryan playing in the midfield. His ability to play on the left is probably his biggest asset he brings to a team who have very few naturally left sided players.

We will probably see CP use Ryan as the left wing in the 4-3-3 or in a 4-2-3-1 or as a strike partner to Bright Dike in a 4-4-2 diamond.