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Chalk Talk: Last Gasp Edition

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The final scoreboard shows the Portland Timbers won 2-1, and the way they won will be the most memorable part of the game. However, the Chalkboard shows that the Galaxy held most of the run of play.

USA TODAY Sports

I still feel giddy when I think back to last Saturday's game, as should we all. It was a game to remember, more for the way it ended than for the actual result. Even with the positive result, though, I got the feeling that Caleb Porter was expecting a better performance from his team.

Matt Doyle in his comments on MLS' weekly power rankings has this to say about the Portland Timbers and the Los Angeles Galaxy

PTFC:

Portland probably should have lost that game - the Galaxy controlled most of the play, and had the better chances. But great teams find a way, and right now the Timbers are a great team.

LAG:

The Galaxy remain the only team in the league that's gone toe-to-toe with Portland and outplayed them. They have one point for their efforts because Portland's kids - Darlington Nagbe and Andrew Jean-Baptiste - have quite clearly gotten the better of LA's.

Both of these quotes got me thinking about possession and the fact that Portland has lost possession on three occasions and still managed to win. Two of those three games were against Sporting Kansas City and the Galaxy. First I wanted to look at meaningful possession, which I would say is possession in the opponent's half. What I found was that the Galaxy had a higher percentage of their total successful passes in the Timbers' half of the field.

Total Passes Successful Unsuccessful Own Half (Successful only) Opp. Half % in Opp half Accuracy
PTFC 448 358 90 194 164 45.8% 81%
LAG 441 329 112 106 223 67.8% 79%

With 67% of their successful passes in Portland's, why did the LA Galaxy not score more often? Let's take a look at where those passes occurred.

LAG passes in PTFC half

A lot of the passes occurred on LA's right hand side of the field, Portland's left, and very few -- if any -- of the passing occurred near the penalty area. So despite the breakdown on the first goal (which Stacey does an amazing job breaking down) Portland's defense did a really good job of keeping a very good attacking team in front of them. LA's possession looked good overall, but a lot of the passes ended up being possession without purpose.

For comparison here is Portland's passing in LA's half:

PTFC passes in LAG half

A lot of Portland's passing was completed on the edges of the field; very few occurred near the penalty box. So how did Portland pull out the win? The answer is easier to tease out when you look that shots and shots on goal. Here are the shot stats from the game, with a few I calculated myself.

Shots Shots on Goal On target % Goals Shots % SOG %
PTFC 7 5 71.4% 2 28.6% 40%
LAG 10 5 50% 1 10% 20%

A greater percentage of Portland's shots were on target and the converted more of those shots to goals. I know it may sound simple but Portland won solely because they converted their goal scoring opportunities into goals. LA could not and this could be another reason why Donovan Ricketts should be an MVP candidate.

Just for kicks and giggles I also went back and found the passing and shooting stats for the Sporting Kansas City game.

Passing

Total Passes Successful Unsuccessful Own Half (Successful only) Opp. Half % in Opp half Accuracy
PTFC 413 323 90 165 158 48.9% 80%
SKC 475 372 103 179 193 51.9% 81%

Shooting

Shots Shots on Goal On target % Goals Shots % SOG %
PTFC 12 7 58.3% 3 25% 42.9%
SKC 18 8 44.4% 2 11.1% 25%