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Game Flow: Portland Struggles in the Boxes

The Portland Timbers struggled to find any rhythm offensively and once again gave up a set piece goal.

Hack a Nagbe
Hack a Nagbe
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

A frustrating game to watch as the Portland Timbers lacked the quality in the boxes to earn the opening day win. The game felt like it did not have a lot of flow to it even though Portland was reported to have almost 60% of the possession and recorded 15 shots.

Kick off to 15'

There was a very high pace to the first 5 minutes of the game with both teams expending a lot of energy and trying to net the opening goal early. The Philadelphia Union's strategy to contain Darlington Nagbe was established early and often. They Nagbe fouled or kicked every time he touched the ball. One 10 minutes had passed both teams slowed down and the energy level dropped with a lot more direct balls played from each team and this played right into the Union's game plan.

15 to 30'

The fouling of Nagbe continued right into the next 15 minute segment as the Portland Timbers looked to gain more of the possession, while Philadelphia looked to expose Portland's high defensive line with balls behind the defense both in the middle of the pitch and on the wings. The advantage went to Philly as they pinned Portland in their own half for a good 5 minutes from the 16' to the 21' with Portland's poor passing not allowing them to get into an attacking rhythm.

30' to Half

Phillly continued their strong first half with a lot of chances and had one cleared off the line by Norberto Paparatto. The first half woes were compounded when Pa Modou Kah picked up a knock in the 34' and had to be subbed off and Futty Danso coming on. The Union must have seen a weakness in Portland's defense as a lot of Philly's attacks were down Portland's right side with speed behind Jack Jewsbury. As the game approached the half finally Portland started to pick up the energy and possession and it led to some quality scoring opportunities but none of them found the back of the net.

Restart to 60'

Philly picked up where they left off with a strong start restart to the game by pinning Portland in their half. PTFC did get their chances but it was mainly on the counter and even then they were only able to keep the ball for 10 passes or fewer. It was as if the Timbers forgot out each other play or were just a half second off.

60' to 75'

In order to try and force the game open Portland picked up their high pressure and clogged the passing lanes. This change helped stifle Philly's attack for a few minutes but once again Portland's set piece defense snake bit the Timbers. Jack McInerney was wide open in front of Donovan Ricketts for an easy header. The goal did light a fire under Portland's offense as they created two quality chances within a minute of giving up the goal but that didn't last as Philly was still able to baffle Portland's offense or probably it was Portland baffling Portland's offense.

75' to End

Portland started to put more numbers forward and playing with a sense of urgency in the final 15 minutes of the game. Despite all of this Portland lacked an offensive flow and looked really disjointed going forward. This lead to a lot of attacks that made it into Philly's half but no farther than halfway to Philly's goal before a bad pass squashed any hopes of a decent attack. However, Portland was thrown a bone by the soccer god's late in the game as they decided Portland should remain undefeated in their home openers. A late, I mean late, corner kick was awarded to the Timbers because of a deflected shot from Steve Zakuani. On the corner kick a Philly player deflected the ball at the near post and it went straight to the head of wide open Gaston Fernandez and he put the ball easily into the net.


  • Portland's offense lacks one direct option. This was usually fulfilled by Rodney Wallace and defenses had to honor Wallace, which opened up the field a little more. It also added width to the attack.
  • Kalif Alhassan's sub finally added the much needed width and also the direct style of play needed to mix up the attack.
  • Everyone had a bad passing night. Everyone offensively player killed multiple attacking sequences with a bad pass. Most of the time it was trying to play a difficult ball. Sometimes KISS is the best option.
  • I love Diego Chara and what he brings to the game but when Chara is going forward and not Will Johnson I think this team struggles both offensively and defensively. Will and Chara need to switch it up.
  • Portland's set pieces were not as dangerous as they could have been, especially the ones Valeri took early on. Once La Gata started to take them they improved slightly.
  • No issue here with the replacement Referee.
  • While it is great to see Zakuani get some minutes he looked like someone who had not played a competitive game since October of last year.
  • Even the Timbers Army felt like they struggled a little bit as there were a few tough starts to some of the chants and a little downtime between some chants. However, I felt they help push the ref into a yellow card on Raymon Gaddis.