Portland is streaking! 6 in a row without a loss and dating back to last year they now have a 5 game unbeaten run on the road. Only FC Dallas has a better unbeaten run with 7 games and if Portland can make it past New England on Thursday those two teams will meet. First let's review last Saturday's game at Sporting Kansas City.
Portland Timbers Quotes
Timbers Head Coach Caleb Porter
General thoughts on the match....
"I thought it was a great match. It was exciting for the fans. Obviously, we're happy we got the three points. It's a huge result for us to come on the road and to get a win against a team of the caliber of Sporting Kansas City. We know they're one of the best teams in the league and I think we showed tonight that we're also one of the best teams in the league. We didn't steal the result we matched them toe-to-toe tonight for 90 minutes. I thought we gave them a lot of problems and they had their moments, their chances as well. We knew it was going to be that way, we knew it would be a game where they had some chances but we had quite a bit as well. In terms of the flow, possession and our ability to press them, I thought we really executed the plan we put in place. I can't credit the guys enough for coming in here with confidence and belief that they could do it. I thought they performed very well and we'll put this behind us and move on to New England."
On what Portland will take away from this game...
"I think it tells us that we can go into any game against any team, home or away, and play our identity and not hope to win but expect to win. It doesn't mean we will win every game. Soccer is a funny sport. If we perform like we did tonight, we're going to be a tough team to beat."
On the early goal from Sporting Kansas City...
"I wasn't concerned actually. We were going to have to score a goal anyway to win. You notice by the way we played that nothing changed. We got on the ball and started to dictate the game. We let it roll, we possessed the ball and created a number of chances. I knew we were going to get one back. I turned and told the staff that after we scored. Then they got another one. Again, the way they play changes. The nice thing when we go down a goal we don't change. We keep going, we keep pushing, we keep attacking, we keep pressing, we keep possession. It makes it tough for teams to play against us because they need a two- or three-goal cushion, otherwise we are going to keep coming at you."
On the team's performance tonight versus their draw with San Jose last week...
"I think of it as psychological. We talk about managing the game better. I think the subs that went into the game did a better job slowing the tempo down, going to the corners and defending well in the box. When you play a team like Kansas City, they're going to dump balls in at the end and they're very effective at it. I thought we really did a great job at making plays late. Donovan (Ricketts) made a save and continues to be tremendous. Mikael Silvestre I thought had a great game in the box, especially when he was dealing with crosses. For me it was a nice reflection of the hard work we've been doing. We're not going to get too high on this. These guys expected to win this game. I looked in their eyes before the game and told them that if we play well we should win the game. Every single one of them nodded their heads. They believed it and they showed it."
Timbers Forward Ryan Johnson
On his goal and assist...
"I got to the ball before my man and I tried to get as much power as I could from that corner kick. The second goal was a good ball from Diego Valeri. I just took my time and I saw Darlington Nagbe last second and I got it to him who did a good job putting it in the back of the net. It was a good day for me today."
On the Timber's image...
"Gives us more respect. We don't fear anybody. Home or away we're going to look to play, we're going to look to press and we wanted to make a statement tonight and we did. We're going to keep our feet on the ground and keep doing what we're doing. We have a quick turnaround on Thursday so we're going to try and rest before the next one."
On the early Sporting Kansas City goal...
"We haven't crumbled all season. We've been in this situation in many games so all of those (events) helped mold us into a team that could handle this situation. We were fine and we knew that we were going to get back and we did."
On the mood at halftime..
"It was very positive because we did well. We had a lot of possession of the ball and at times we dictated the game. We felt that we did a good job of managing their pressure, their possession and we pressed very well. At halftime the coach was very happy with our performance and he just wanted to keep us going. He told us that if we kept doing what we were doing we would get the winning goal and hold them off so they wouldn't equalize and it worked out."
On Sporting Kansas City's defense...
"Don't sit back on them. Don't fear them. We just played our game and I think a lot of teams should do that. Don't be afraid of anyone you're playing against because anything can happen and it showed tonight. We didn't sit back on them at all. LA (Galaxy) did that to them and that's what happened. We did that against them today and it worked out in our favor. Going on to the rest of the games this season we're going to keep the same mentality and hope this pushes us into the playoffs because that's where we want to be."
Timbers Midfielder Darlington Nagbe
On his goal...
"I saw Diego Valeri win the ball in the middle of the field. It was a great tackle and played Ryan Johnson right away. I saw that he broke through and I ran along with him and he played it to me then I just tapped it in."
On the team's defense in the second half...
"We come in at halftime and try to regroup. Caleb Porter does a good job with us by telling us what we need to do better. We just need to start the games better. There were two set piece goals that we didn't mark well. We were caught sleeping and they got two goals."
Sporting Kansas City Quotes
Sporting Kansas City Head Coach Peter Vermes
"I thought that we came out with very, very good energy. The first goal of the game. From the kickoff, we created a great opportunity going forward, then we scored right thereafter. But I think the difference in the game is a simple one. I think that you have to give a little credit to them in that they came out to press a little bit. But we broke the pressure many a times, we gave the ball away far too easy a lot of times in the final third or in the middle third and then allowed them to counter us. Defensively, the second goal was a 70 or 80 yard run. There's no way that should take place over the course of a match, especially playing at home. We weren't good in those moments and it hurt us big time. And then losing the ball like we did in possession far up the field and then having to run 80 or 90 yards to try to win it back, we lost a lot of energy especially in the first half."
On the attacking nature of the fullbacks...
"When our guys are up there and they have the ball, and they have 20 yards of space around them, it's a great build up. The problem is that we just gave the ball to the other team. You can't give balls away so the other team can counter. It's one thing if you serve it into the box, the ball gets cleared and then they go from there. But it's another thing to just give a clear pass to a guy. It wasn't just wide guys, it was central midfield guys too. We just gave away the ball away way too easy which put us under pressure too many times. That's not the norm for us but tonight we just gave the ball away."
On not protecting the leads...
"That's not normal for us. Defensively, I say it again, we were very poor to deal with those situations. They were run of the mill plays. They weren't something where they had great buildup or whatever. And then the corner kick, the guy's wide open. I'll have to look at the film again, but he's wide open. Again, the goals that they score are through the run of play and we just give up very, very easy balls. And we're in bad positions, we're never goal side. We have a lot to look at film-wise this upcoming week."
On the defensive breakdowns the last two games...
"I don't even want to talk about the LA game because it had a lot to do with the fact that we were tired. But in this game, it's the fact that we were poor in possession. When you lose the ball like we did in the areas of the field that we did and then you have to travel so far to win it back, at some point you're going to then open up as a team. And credit to them, they went right to goal and finished off those two chances. The set piece is a set piece but the other two plays, again we gave up the ball in critical areas of the field that we normally don't do. And we do a poor job of putting out the fire."
On Chance Myers first two MLS goals coming in a defeat...
"I don't feel bad. We put that on ourselves. I'm not happy with the way our performance was tonight and how easy it was for us to give up the ball in areas of the field."
Sporting Kansas City Defender Chance Myers
On scoring the first two goals of his six-year MLS career...
"I enjoyed them for about two minutes after each goal. But it's tough to not come away with a victory. I'd take the win any day, but I guess it's cool to score."
On Sporting KC's performance in a 3-2 loss to Portland...
"There are no excuses. We've just got to be better. We gave up a set piece goal, which we usually don't do. And we got caught on the counter at home, which we usually don't do. We'll go back to the drawing board because we've got a big game next weekend against Chivas USA."
On conceding three goals at home...
"It's uncharacteristic of us to give away goals from those spots. We usually do a good job spreading the ball and keeping it wide, finding good lanes. But tonight we gave away a couple bad (passes) and got caught on the counter."
Sporting Kansas City Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen
On Sporting KC's performance...
"They really crushed us on the counter attack. They were very good at it, and we gave the ball away in dangerous spots. Give them a lot of credit for punishing us for our mistakes. Right now it's a gigantic disappointment. We've got to bounce back-we've got two home games coming up that are very important. All defeats are hard to handle. We've got to step up as a team, come together, and improve."
On conceding three goals at home...
"We've been begging for teams to come here and (attack). They did, and we didn't have an answer for it. They made it very difficult for us to play the way we wanted and really punished us. Them attacking gives us a little more room, but we didn't' take advantage of that. We were poor in making the right decisions."
On Sporting KC's defensive errors...
"When we're building up and all the players are going forward, we can't give the ball away. You've got to give them credit for the way they countered and put us under pressure. They had three attacking guys that were always ready to counter, and they did a heck of a good job. It's a gigantic disappointment and I feel very bad for the fans."
|Sporting Kansas City||Portland Timbers|
|18||Attempts on Goal||12|
|8||Shots on Target||7|
|7||Shots off Target||4|
|26||Open Play Crosses||5|
|1||First Yellow Cards||2|
|0||Second Yellow Cards||0|
|52%||Duels Won %||47%|
|81%||Passing Accuracy %||77%|
There were so many things to look at in the Opta Chalk Board but the one thing that stood out to me was the exploitation of one of Sporting' supposed strengths, namely the attacking nature of SKC's outside backs. Chance Meyers has a penchant for getting very deep when he joins the attack and other teams have had trouble taking advantage of his forays forward.
Portland was not one of those teams and they repeatedly attack the space left by Meyers. All three of Portland's goals involved players on the left hand side of the field, SKC's right, and two of the goals occurred with Meyers far up the field. Portland was able to utilize the players on the left because of positional switch between Jack Jewsbury and Micheal Harrington.
Moving Jewsbury to the left this allowed Rodney Wallace to get forward because Jewsbury stayed put defensively. Wallace still had to track back to help at times but for the most part he played as a third forward rather than a midfielder. Here are the heat maps for Chance Meyers, Jewsbury and Wallace to reinforce the point:
Jewsbury and Wallace
You can see just how far forward Wallace played and how deep both Jewsbury and Meyers played. Essentially Portland played a 3 man backline with Jewsbury, Silvestre and Futty. The reason I say a three man backline is due to the fact that once again Michael Harrington was tasked with defending one of the best attacking players in the league and he did so by playing more of an attacking role. Just look at his eat map for conformation:
By far his most frequent position was in Sporting's half and this forced Graham Zusi to track back and play defense. If he track back it meant that Portland had a numbers advantage on the wing and thus pulling one of the central midfielders out towards the wing. This again gave Portland numbers in the center of the pitch and allowed Portland to win the midfield battle and thus the game.