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Timbers Scouting Report: A look at weak vs strong defenses

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Portland’s defense is weak. It’s just weaksauce.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting KC
The best form of Chara defending, sitting
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle’s Cascadia matches are coming fast, with two of their next three, and three of their next five, being against the NW rivals. The next two are against Portland, one per city. Each must be treated as six-point matches not just because they are a rival, or the Cascadia Cup (aka George), but because the Timbers must be knocked out of the playoff picture. At least below us in that picture. I could bore you with tactical things and blah blah blah with numbers, which is kind of my thing but instead I’ll excite you with them.

Eleven key passes for Nicolas Lodeiro and he’s doing it every way you can think of. Portland has a back line that has the tight-knit-ness of Swiss cheese and strengthen on a single-layer of plastic wrap. Of the four likely starters, only Vytas (the new LB) could do something productive this weekend and he’ll be too busy double-teaming Lodeiro. Diego Chara is fresh after being suspended last weekend, expect him to show up and foul Lodeiro. He’ll have to sit back on top of the back four and work with Ridgewell, Taylor and Vytas to stop Lodeiro because no one else will. If Chara gets turned, he fouls to the tune of No. 1 in MLS. Chara will have to foul Lodeiro, he has no choice when he gets turned. The question is not if but when he’s in the ref’s book. Seattle’s attack should be able to put up 3,4, even 5 goals against this Portland defense. They are not strong enough to defend everyone, if Chara and Vytas have to defend Lodeiro, Jewsbury and Taylor on Deuce, it leaves just Ridgewell on Morris and Alvas Powell to defend Andreas Ivanschitz. The full backs will push back Valeri and co. from up top to either force a nine-man bunker, or holes large enough to fit a semi through. This defense is perfect for Seattle’s new offense, get ready for a thriller.

This is why Hugo Garcia is running Sounder at Heart today

On offense, Portland scores at about a clip of 1.44 per match (same for GA, both 36 in 25 matches). This is largely due to the ability for some guy named Fanendo Adi to score in the midst of all his flopping and fouling. Diego Valeri pulls all the strings. He’ll float around, pick up the ball and make something happen, very much like Lodeiro. Unlike Seattle, Portland can not rely on the DMs providing assistance. Jewsbury and Chara will be occupied and will be cautious to push up too high fearing a quick-counter to spring Dempsey and Morris like we saw in Orlando. Neither are great passers to create an attack while sitting at midfield and having the entire Sounders defense starting to press. With the addition of Lodeiro, the club has started to press defenders and DMs who hold possession, making it more of a priority that Valeri run the attack from higher up the pitch. Roldan and Alonso can dedicate breaking up Darlington Nagbe, Adi and Valeri. Teams that have been able to put a player or more on each (Evans or Marshall on Adi, DMs on Nagbe and Valeri) have been successful at shutting them down. Against Portland last time out, Seattle’s inability to attack with quality chances allowed the Portland defense to be let off the hook and for the DMs to push up, giving Portland a high-power offense, but not this time.

Seattle has shut down opposing players and held them out of the match (Kei Kamara twice, Kaka, and more) and Sunday will not be any different. What will help Portland succeed is a set-piece goal or a long-shot that Seattle did not close out on. They are one-offs, bad luck, whatever we want to call them and they must be stopped. Seattle has only conceded eight non-PK goals at home, averaging less than one a game. This game is not won on paper, otherwise we’d be undefeated, but Portland might be one of our most advantageous situations of the season and Seattle must take advantage. They’ll hold the shutout, fans will get haircuts and a pizza (tacos sounded better), 4-0. Portland will be short a man next time out in Portland after picking up a red as well.

Predicted Lineups:

PDX- Gleeson, Powell, S. Taylor, Ridgwell, Vytas, Jewsbury, Chara, Melano, Valeri, Nagbe, Adi

SEA- Frei, Mears, Evans, Marshall, Jones, Roldan, Alonso, Lodeiro, Dempsey, Ivanschitz, Morris

This post is brought to you by Hugo Garcia (@MiVidaSeattle) who won an auction to run Sounder at Heart for a day.