A Look at Tactics Between the Sounders and Timbers

To preface this post, I’d just like to say that this isn’t a full match report or analysis, but is just some portions of the game on Saturday that I found interesting.

Dempsey vs. Valeri.

On the surface, this seems like a pretty straightforward comparison. Take the two teams' CAMs, their primary playmakers, take a look at their passing numbers, and see how they did. However, this comparison is not as elementary as that. This is primarily because the two players, though playing the same position, were used in different roles.

As has been talked about plenty on this blog and elsewhere, Dempsey was deployed as the CAM in the Sounders' diamond, designed to keep three midfield players behind him, freeing him up to stay on the attack and focus on his playmaking. Valeri, however, was expected to contribute much more defensively. As a part of Portland’s 3-man midfield in Porter’s Totaalvoetbal system, he is required to be more of a two-way player. The stats turn out as you would expect: Dempsey’s offensive numbers were much better while Valeri showed more defensive contributions.



Passing (excluding corners)



Passing %



Key Passes















The players’ defensive charts also show Valeri’s intent on tracking back while Clint stayed on the front foot:


Timbers pick the Sounders’ avenue of attack.

Because of the Sounders’ narrow diamond and stay-at-home fullbacks, their best option for attack was through the middle. So, as expected, Will Johnson and Diego Chara stayed central to snuff out any attacks that Seattle tried through the middle. This is contrasted with Alonso, who worked to protect the Sounders’ flanks from wide attacks.


The Sounders, being a talented team, possess other routes of offense, one of which is going over the top. Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle can outpace almost any centerback in the league, but Kah and Futty did not give them that chance. Instead of leaving space behind them, they dropped off, defending extremely deep. Here are their charts, contrasted with Hurtado and Traore’s.


Notice how only one of Hurtado and Traore’s defensive actions are in the box while 20+ of Kah and Danso’s are in theirs. The "Wall of Gambia" was set up right on the border.

With these methods of attacking stoppered, the Sounders took what was given, resulting in 33 crosses into the box. With Eddie Johnson on the pitch, it’s a risky strategy to give the Sounders that much room on the flank, but Porter opted to go with this defense knowing that Mauro Rosales and DeAndre Yeldin were probably not going to be playing. When Sigi did put Mauro on, he was fairly successful, completing 3 of 7 crosses.

Though this may seem to fit the narrative that the Timbers were more prepared than the Sounders and that they controlled the game, the Sounders still managed to create chances.


13 shots inside the box is a solid number. In the end, credit goes to Portland as their superior finishing fairly led them to victory, but this was not a devastating blowout loss for the Sounders.

Sources: and

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