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Player Grades: Portland Timbers 1-1 New York Red Bulls

Portland’s forward line stands out in their draw in New Jersey.

MLS: Portland Timbers at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Portland Timbers drew 1-1 against the New York Red Bulls, even with multiple regular starters going down with injuries prior to the match. However, in this game, the Timbers were able to rely on their attack to create just enough opportunities to squeak a result against a good Red Bulls team (second in the Eastern Conference at the time of this being written).

Here’s my breakdown of how the Timbers’ players performed as they remained in the 10th position in the Western Conference.

Player Grades:

David Bingham (GK) - 4.8

After the typical starting goalkeeper, Aljaz Ivacic, was left out of the squad due to a minor injury, Bingham got his first opportunity to prove his value this season and he did a solid job. He made some key saves to deny a few Red Bull chances; however, one of the most interesting tactics of this game was how much more involved Bingham was in the buildup than Ivacic. In his last five MLS starts, Ivacic typically averaged around 12-14 passes and zero to three long passes a match, whereas Bingham racked up 21 passes in this game and attempted 14 long passes. I think this shows the fact that the Timbers coaching staff is not very confident with Ivacic’s distribution and would rather prefer Bingham in that regard, even though Ivacic is likely the better shot-stopper.

This graph compares Bingham’s performance vs NYRB against Ivacic’s last four games. As you can see, Bingham (red) attempted more total passes and long passes for the most part.

Pablo Bonilla (RB) - 2.2

With starting right back Josecarlos Van Rankin out due to injury, Bonilla got his second start of the season and played an overall poor game. The defender ranked well below average in almost every category, making it clear that Bonilla isn’t quite ready to make the jump into MLS starter territory. The Venezuelan wasn’t involved much in the passing side at all, as he registered just under 23 passes per 90 (4th percentile). And even with his opportunities, he completed just 68% of his passes (16th percentile). In the attack, Bonilla ranked in just the 21st percentile for attempted forward passes, completed just one of his three passes to the final third (15th percentile), and didn’t attempt a single pass to the penalty area. Bonilla was frequently attacked on the defensive side (as indicated through his 10 recoveries in the match), but his defensive duel and press percentages were both below average. There’s a lot more of Bonilla’s struggles that I could go into here, as it’s pretty difficult to attain an overall rating this low, so these were just some of the highlights. When JVR returns (he didn’t play in the US Open Cup against LAFC), hopefully Bonilla can have more of an impact off the bench, when attackers are running on tired legs.

Dario Zuparic (CB) - 4.8

Zuparic had a solid game as he oscillated around the average mark for each major grade. One of things that Zuparic did very well was his long passing, as the Croatian attempted eight long balls and completed them at an 86% rate (94th percentile). The rest of his passing, however, was about average as he completed 85% of his passes (62nd percentile) and 71% of his forward passes (51st percentile). Defensively, Zuparic excelled at winning his defensive duels and clearing the ball; however, he didn’t recover the ball very much and failed to apply pressure to opposing attackers.

Larrys Mabiala (CB) - 5.4

Like Zuparic, Mabiala was around average for most of the game, with his aerial ability being his greatest strength. However, in contrast to Zuparic, who won just two of his six aerial duels, Mabiala won both of his aerial duels. Additionally, the Congolese international recovered the ball much more frequently than Zuparic and maintained a perfect defensive duel success rate. Like his prior games, Mabiala still struggled to apply pressure and force turnovers in that area, which explains why his defensive rating is about average. Passing-wise, Mabiala completed 80% of his total passes and 45% of his long passes, both a decent bit below Zuparic’s numbers; however, the Congolese international also completed five of his ten passes into the final third as well as 79% of his forward passes, indicating that he attempted to create some opportunities for his teammates in the attack.

Justin Rasmussen (LB) - 2.8

Apart from his playmaking which was slightly above average, Rasmussen had a somewhat poor game and had one of the worst defensive grades for a full back that I’ve seen. While he wasn’t attacked all that much, as the Red Bulls opted to focus on breaking down Bonilla, Rasmussen was absent defensively (at least statistics-wise), as the rookie finished the game in the bottom seventh percentile for his defensive grade. Rasmussen recorded just three pressures in the match and failed to dispossess the defender in any of them, putting him in the lowest percentile for outside backs. Additionally, the American could only muster up six defensive duels in the match and he again could not complete any of them and recorded just two recoveries (all of which are below and even well below the 30th percentile). From this statistical breakdown, I think it’s pretty clear that Rasmussen isn’t quite up to MLS speed right now defensively (which is fine as a rookie) and hopefully we will see some more improvements in future games from him.

Eryk Williamson (CM) - 2.1

Williamson was poor across the board in this game, which is partially due to the fact that he registered just 47 total actions and 13 passes per 90. For a midfielder to average just 13 passes per 90, something clearly went wrong, as Williamson for whatever reason couldn’t get himself involved in the game. Furthermore, the American’s typical lowest performing area, his defensive grade, was actually the highest major grade in this match, as he ranked in the 36th percentile for that area. It’s difficult to read into a match where a player was practically not involved in their time on the field (which was 69 minutes for Williamson), because if that player messes up once then they will get unfairly penalized compared to a player with much more total actions and passes. Even when Williamson got on the ball though, he was sloppy (lowest percentile for miscarries), did not progress the ball forward (21st percentile for progressive distance per pass), and failed to complete a single forward pass. At the time of writing this, Diego Chara is starting in his second game back from injury for the Timbers in the US Open Cup, so hopefully Williamson can perform better in reserve role and continue to work his way up to full fitness.

Cristhian Paredes (CM) - 4.2

Apart from his defensive work (which Paredes admittedly did well), the Paraguayan struggled as he received grades of below the 40th percentile for every other major category. Paredes did a great job of pressing the ball and winning the ball back, as he ranked above the 70th percentile for presses per 90 and above the 95th percentile for press percentage. However, the Paraguayan struggled to complete forward passes (9th percentile) and failed to complete any passes to the final third. Something was clearly wrong with this mixture of players as both Paredes and Williamson missed on all of their passes to the final third, and future opponents will likely look to exploit Paredes’ passing inability from the midfield. Additionally, Paredes struggled to win many of his offensive duels as he completed just one of six offensive duels in the match. Therefore, he provided practically no threat going forward in this match and he’ll definitely look to improve on those categories in his next MLS match against Sporting Kansas City.

Yimmi Chara (CAM) - 4.5

It was a game of ups and downs for Yimmi as the Colombian did a good job of pressing and creating opportunities with his passing; however, his dribbling was very poor. Part of Yimmi’s struggles in this game could definitely be due to the midfield’s inability to move the ball forward, as Yimmi ranked in the 28th percentile for total actions and just sixth percentile for touches in the attacking third. Even when Yimmi got on the ball, he struggled to move forward as he ranked in just the 12th percentile for progressive distance per carry. Because of these two things, Yimmi quite possibly could have converted into a more defensive role during the game, which provided the freedom for Santiago Moreno to get forward and create opportunities. This is supported by Yimmi’s 11 recoveries (highest percentile possible), seven defensive duels, and solid pressing numbers. All of Yimmi’s defensive statistics from this match were well above-average, so this scenario that I’m describing is certainly a possibility of what actually happened.

Santiago Moreno (RW) - 8.2

Moreno had one of his best games this season, as he picked up an assist on a low cross into the box and he looked dangerous and smooth throughout the game. The Colombian ranked well above average in every major category except his defending/pressing (which is interesting and I will cover that later in this breakdown). As a whole, Moreno completed 69% of his total actions and 92% of his passes, both of which are above the 95th percentile for wingers. The Colombian completed all of his three passes to the penalty area and recorded two shot assists- but his best trait was by far his dribbling. The Colombian attempted 11 dribbles and 22 offensive duels per 90 and completed 80% of his dribbles and 68% of his offensive duels. My theory on this spike in production in the dribbling category: because Moreno didn’t track back much like he usually does (he recorded just one recovery and attempted 11 pressures with a very low press percentage), he had more energy to push forward and attack, and his usual lackluster or careless touch became less apparent. This could also explain Bonilla’s poor grades this game as he might have gotten accustomed to receiving support from Portland’s wingers, and he struggled once he didn’t have as much support.

This chart depicts the relationship between Santiago Moreno’s Dribbling and Defensive Grades. Interestingly enough, there is a negative relationship between the two.

Jaroslaw Niezgoda (ST) - 6.1

The front line for the Timbers had one of their best games this season as Niezgoda got on the board and scored a well-placed finish on a low ball from his teammate Santiago Moreno. Niezgoda also made more of an impact across the board in this game, as he received the ball slightly more (4th percentile compared to the 1st/2nd percentile). But the major differences were that Niezgoda succeeded in his actions much more of the time (45% compared to 32% last game) and his actions were varied and not just quick lateral or backward passes. A prime example of this is Niezgoda’s dribbles as the Polish forward completed three of his five dribbles in the match (75th percentile among strikers). Dribbling typically hasn’t been a major part of Niezgoda’s game, so it’s good to see him working on something new. He’ll look to carry this form into the Timbers next MLS game against Sporting KC- provided he’s recovered from the injury he suffered in Tuesday’s Open Cup loss.

Marvin Loria (LW) - 6.0

Loria had one of his best performances this season as he ranked around the average mark for each major category, but performed especially well in his passing (78th percentile). The Costa Rican completed an impressive 89% of his passes, but his passes included just one pass to the penalty area and six forward passes. As you can see, a lot of Loria’s passes were either backwards or laterally and didn’t go into many dangerous areas in the attacking third, which is something he can hopefully improve on in future games. Defensively, Loria did a good job of recovering the ball and attempting defensive duels as he ranked in the 95th percentile for recoveries and 55th percentile for defensive duels. Like Moreno, Loria also attempted a lot of dribbles and offensive duels (80th and 95th percentile, respectively); however the Costa Rican wasn’t as efficient as he ranked in just the 27th and 16th percentile for each. If Loria can tidy up some of his offensive duels and be a bit braver in the final third, then I think he will be a much more valuable performer for the Timbers in the future.

Substitutes:

Diego Chara () - N/A

Sebastian Blanco () - N/A

Bill Tuiloma () - N/A

David Ayala () - N/A

These players aren’t graded because I currently do not have a grading system that will fairly evaluate players, who played under 30 minutes compared to the rest of the team, who played most of the game. This is something that I want to improve upon in the future.