Complementary Medicine: Nagbe & Valeri

When the ball dropped to Darlington Nagbe, in space forty-five yards from goal with twelve minutes or so left on the clock, the midfielder was of a singular mind: he was going to run with the ball, right at the heart of the New York City defense. And so, his head up and focus dead ahead, Nagbe ran. Within seconds, five light blue shirts had swarmed him. Finding his path to the box blocked, the move looked over, but Nagbe was not ready to give it up so easily. With one final lunge, he successfully nicked the ball off the toe of a defender and into the path of a teammate. Before New York City could properly adjust to this change in dynamic, the ball had already arced over their goalkeeper who’d been wrong-footed and grounded by a crucial deflection. Nagbe had not scored the goal, nor would he be officially awarded the assist, but it’s hard to see how the deadlock would ever have been broken without him in a game that was otherwise unfolding in a wearingly familiar manner.

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Is This It?

C.I. DeMann’s match report headline really sums up the last game. Portland got Pounded. For all but a few spells in the game, the Timbers were chasing shadows out on the field. Caleb Porter admitted as much in his post-match comments, ceding victory to the better team. After an encouraging win last week it is bitterly disappointing that any potential momentum was lost with such a tired home performance. Continue reading

Tragic Moments

March ended in what has become customary fashion for Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers, with no wins and only flashes of what the head coach assures the fans and media is a good team, one that is more than capable of mounting a strong playoff push. Slow starts have, sadly, become a trademark, and the trend is especially worrying as in the next month the Timbers face matches against teams ranked 2, 3 and 4 in terms of fewest shots conceded per game (Seattle [8.0], Orlando [8.5] and Dallas [9.8]) as well as a tricky trip to New York. Continue reading

Pragmatical Magic

Two goals scored, three points earned and no wins. Portland’s 2015 season starts just as the 2014 did, rather than picking up where it ended, with three wins in the last four. RSL, LA and SKC are all tricky opponents, and there is a lot to be said for Caleb Porter getting through such a tough start unbeaten, and doing so minus two of his most influential players. Continue reading

Flanking Maneuvers

The plaudits for Portland’s most recent 3-0 win against Vancouver will go, quite rightly, to Diego Valeri, after another piece of what is becoming almost routine brilliance, and to Fanendo Adi, whose brace broke what remained of the Caps resistance.

Behind the headlines lay another couple of strong performances that helped lay the foundations for Portland’s win here, as well as the increase in goals scored and generally improved all-round performances over the past few matches1. Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafaña have given the team an injection of pace and power down the flanks, reinvigorating the team as the playoffs loom and finally bringing “hyper-mobile, modern full-backs” to Soccer City USA. Continue reading

  1. The last four matches have seen the Timbers outscore opponents 11-5, a high for this year in terms of most goals scored and fewest goals conceded over a 4 game period. 

Aside: Networking in New England

Caption Text

This represents the successful passes between players, with the thicker the line, the more passes. x and o represens shots at goal (x for off target/blocked by defender, o for on target) with the lighter colors being Portland’s shots. By pairing this data with the average position during the match, taken from MLS heatmaps, you can start to get a sense of the flow of the team’s play. Here you can see how the introduction of Nagbe dramatically changed the shape of Portland’s place, with comparatively little going down the right side in the second half.

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