Tactics Sink Portland in Emerald City


Portland fell 1-3 to a resurgent Sounders team but there was more in play than just a strong Seattle performance.

It’s been a tough road for the Portland Timbers coming off the back of an MLS Cup Championship. Caleb Porter has been stretched with his limited options to make the best of the players he has.

Somehow, the Timbers have been able to stay afloat, but with last night’s loss to the Sounders, the Timbers are losing their grip on the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

In seemed like it was going to be one of those nights before the ball even got rolling.

Fanendo Adi was scratched from the starting XI, and the worry of all Timbers fans started to creep behind us like an unforgiving rainy cloud.

Injury? Illness?

Anything, but a long-term injury. Please.

“I never comment on team matters, private matters like that,” Porter said. “It’s between me and the player. Obviously, there are reasons why he didn’t start. He was a late scratch, but that’s something that I’ll handle privately.”

Apparently, Adi missed his flight to Seattle for unknown reasons and Porter decided to take care of the matter internally.

Next: Seattle Sounders versus Portland Timbers: A Breakdown of Cascadia

Kudos to Caleb for placing tangible worth on the core values of the team, even if that meant suffering at CenturyLink Field against our greatest rivals the Champion less Seattle Sounders.

P.S We used to have to do push-ups for showing up late; no one ever wanted to be late.

Seattle Sounders and manager Brain Schmetzer’s tactical plans took a significant boost at the news that Adi wouldn’t have the opportunity to torment their back line.

The plan was simple.

Suffocate Valeri due to both his sensational goalscoring form as of late and because he’s the fulcrum for the Timbers. Valeri is the technical mastermind for the Portland midfield, and he can often be seen sparking the offense with a perfectly weighted ball onto the feet of one his attacking teammates.

And suffocate they did.

After the first ten minutes of the match, I realized I hadn’t even noticed if Valeri was in or not. I had to verify he was on the pitch by using my phone’s newsfeed.

A few minutes later the commentators of the match mentioned they hadn’t seen Valeri touch the ball after fifteen minutes of the game had expired.

If you want to blunt the Timber’s offense, that’s definitely one way to do it. You could see it in the flatness of the game. Valeri would often have to come deep into his own half to collect the ball, or instead of playing in between the lines of Seattle’s defense and midfield, Valeri would come to the side of the midfield.

Aug 7, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi (9) jogs during warm-ups before playing Sporting Kansas City at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi (9) jogs during warm-ups before playing Sporting Kansas City at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports /

The two places he was receiving the ball were not worrisome for Seattle. They were more than happy to let Valeri pick up the ball in such a neutral area on the field. After all, Valeri still had to thread a pass between both lines of Seattle’s defense to even have a chance at goal.

That wasn’t about to happen, especially with Alonso patrolling in front of Seattle’s back four.

To make matters worse for the Timbers, even when Valeri did pick up the ball in a dangerous location, they had no Adi to check-in for the ball.

Adi does a fantastic job of playing as a lone center striker in the form of a ‘post’.

By the term ‘post’, I mean a player normally of significant height who’s able to receive the ball back turned to goal while shielding possession from a defender.

This allows the forward playing in the ‘post’ role to draw out a CB, causing a hole in the back line of the defending team. Then other Timbers players can exploit the space, or the same ‘post’ player can release the ball and turn into the space he just created.

None of that was happening Sunday night.

So it came to no surprise that anytime Portland got in a counter attacking position (a motif that has yielded plenty of goals for the Timbers recently) it was often two Timbers players vs. four to five Seattle defenders.

A counter-attacking scheme where there are more defenders than attackers? That can’t be good.

Many of the Timber’s attacks were snuffed out before they even became dangerous. Alonso just needed to interrupt our play in the midfield, and Seattle’s back line was able to play with leisure because they had no Adi biting at their conscious.

This allowed Seattle to swarm, contain and dispossess the Timber’s easily and initiate their own attack.

Credit to Portland for staying in the match as long as they did. The scoreline makes the match seem more dramatic than it really was. 0-0 for the majority of the match before Seattle broke the deadlock in the second half. Three goals came in after the 80th minute when the game opened up for both sides.

Thankfully the opportunity for redemption is only one week away as this time; Portland plays hosts to Seattle.

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Glad we’re home. This time, there shouldn’t be an issue with anyone missing a plane of any sort.