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Through the Looking Glass: Creativity

As noted by many in last week's article, there is more to scoring goals than having a great finishing touch - you also need a blend of creativity to help set up those goal scoring chances.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Finishing Touches.

In looking at the game last weekend the Timbers had nine shots taken, with two shots on goal - one of which came from a sequence of passes around the 80 minute mark.

Since I'm pretty much hopeless when it comes to linking video clips I'll try and take a stab at applying a narrative that may help paint a picture about creativity, or lack there-of. It all begins at the 80:10 mark of the game (or the 3:22 mark of this video) here.

At that beginning of the sequence Ishmael Yartey receives the ball from Diego Chara, turns, and has a number of options with Jorge Villafana making a run - a run Villafana chooses that goes wide left; as opposed to inside and into the 18 yard box.

Could that have been different?

  • I won't say yes or no - there are many things we aren't aware of given internal attacking schemes, but there is goodness, when you have time and space, in running directly into the box to create a goal scoring opportunity, especially when your teammate also has time and space to make that through-ball pass .

So, Villafana goes wide and Yartey passes him the ball then drops back about 2-3 yards for a return pass. Villafana instead plays a pass to Jack Jewsbury who is slightly further back behind Yartey.

In hindsight, the Timbers had a developing three on two, and Yartey, instead of dropping back a yard or two, could've made a run into the box as a leading indicator for Villafana to put in his own through-ball.

Could that sequence have gone different?

  • I think so. Like before, the two Timbers players both had time and space on the ball, but in this instance a penetrating run (looking for the through-ball) would not only take advantage of Yartey's one on one skills, but it would also create a larger space for Jewsbury if that through-ball wasn't played. For me, I think it's worthy to make that penetrating run into the 18 yard box.

So, the ball transfers back to a wide open Jewsbury (again the Timbers still have a three on two at the top left side of the 18 yard box).  From there, Jewsbury dribbles inward a bit (this move pulls the defender up) and then passes back to Chara.

Could that have gone better?

  • Calling it a mistake may be a bit harsh as Chara was unmarked, but in this case there remained a potential three on two and Yartey's marker was roughly 2-3 yards away.  It should seem reasonable that passing a ball into a potential danger area (where penetration might occur) is a more attacking option than passing the ball backwards.

So, that's three opportunities where a more dangerous type of penetration might have occurred - but wait, there's more.

If you freeze frame the video at 80:20 (3:32), you can see Jewsbury is pointing to the right side as he faces Diego Chara, who just received the ball at the top of the 18 yard box.

Why? In looking at the freeze frame, on the right side of the pitch, the Timbers are actually out-manned by the Sounders. In this case the Sounders have three defenders in an area where the Timbers have two attackers.

Could there be a better decision?

  • Perhaps; when faced with putting the ball forward, the most ideal conditions are putting it into an area where your team can have a man advantage or may have time and space to create a goal scoring opportunity given that man advantage. In this case moving the ball to the right side of the pitch would have given the Sounders the man advantage.

Diego Chara did not make that pass - rightly so, in my view - instead he puts the ball back to the left side where the Timbers still retain at least a two on two condition.  His pass finds Yartey who has, at least initially, two or three yards of space atop the 18 yard box.

Next in the cycle is something most would consider reasonable - Ishmael plays a cross into the box when he's closed down by the Sounders defender.  But is it?

In this instance, note that both Fenando Adi and Gaston Fernandez are making their runs to the six yard box, but, like that earlier suggestion from Jewsbury, it's two Timbers attackers being defended by three Sounders.

Regardless, Yartey puts the cross in.

  • There is goodness whenever the opportunity presents itself to sustain a man advantage and continue to cycle the ball as the team looks for gaps or other man advantage opportunities that may exist.
  • What is unusual is that this is the second time (in the space of 15 seconds) where Yartey had passed up the opportunity to take on a single defender - a strength we have been told he has in penetrating the 18 yard box.

All told, the Timbers did get a shot on goal.  It was a worthy effort but one that stemmed from a run of play where there may have been even better conditions to create a shot that may have had an improved chance of going in.

In closing:

Creativity is a funny thing in soccer - hindsight usually shows that there are sometimes better options - the hard part is thinking and acting on those potential options while playing at full speed.

Some may say it's not fair to point out all these different options - I disagree. For me, soccer is a game that is never ending in learning to get better. As Diego Valeri begins to get meaningful minutes for the first time this season I am hopeful his creativity will begin to rub off a bit more on the other players around him. Good players do well, but great players make others players do well too.

However viewed, the creativity and finishing skills of the Timbers need to get better; especially when a harsh view of the Sounders' goal could include the opinion that the defenders were, again, caught ball watching.

What do you think the chances are of the Timbers going on a sustained run of results with the return of both Diego Valeri and Will Johnson, while also taking into account the additions of Asprilla and Yartey into the attack?

Best, Chris