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Know Your Enemy: Portland Timbers - Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

The second installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, the Portland Timbers, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses, as well as highlighting some points of interest

Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe - Portland's Movers and Shakers
Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe - Portland's Movers and Shakers
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Part One, focusing on their lineup and form, was posted earlier today

Having digested their lineup – racked by injuries, suspension, and international duty – and their form – just one win in their last seven matches, having lost their last two, but still unbeaten in three at home – it’s time to go over some film to see how they score and how they are scored upon.

The Tactics

Portland’s attack, for all the contributors they have had this season – eleven different goal-scorers and five five-goal scorers (which speaks to the variety of their attack), begins and ends with Diego Valeri.

The Argentine playmaker, initially signed on loan from CA Lanus as a designated player in January saw his option to buy exercised in August, such has been his success in MLS.

With five goals and eleven assists, Valeri has been involved in over 40% of Portland’s 39 goals; prior to Darlington Nagbe’s goal in Salt Lake on the weekend, he had been involved in their last eight goals.

While capable of a stunning bit of skill himself:

It is really as a set-up man that he is dominant.

For all the emphasis that Caleb Porter has put on possession and ball movement, it is from set-pieces that Portland is at their most dangerous, with Valeri and Ryan Johnson the most regular partnership to cause trouble.

Though the same danger is posed from open play as well:

Ryan Johnson’s absence is a boon, but clearly, if Valeri is not available, Toronto stands a better chance of getting something from this match.

TFC should be especially wary of the quickly taken free-kick, a favourite sneak attack of Valeri and the Timbers’.

Nagbe is another primary threat – tied with Ryan Johnson for team lead with eight goals, especially when he moves in from wide, shoots from distance, or generally gets on the ball with a modicum of space.

Watch him closely.

Portland can be very direct when allowed the space:

And are troublesome on the counter:

The Costa Rican, Rodney Wallace, has found his form this season, scoring five goals and adding an equal number of assists.

Canadian Will Johnson, if fit, is a threat with his surging runs from deep:

And can hit a decent free-kick; he is having a career year with six goals and three assists already.


The Timbers have shown a weakness at defending set-pieces, perhaps a by-product of the constant injury-forced shuffle of their backline.

Whether from corner kicks:

Or from free-kicks:

That two such obvious aerial threats are allowed to get free is incredible. However, Toronto’s inability to regularly provide good service will dampen that potential threat.

That failure to properly mark up also occurs in open play:

Portland has proven particularly sleepy from throw-ins, which is purely a matter of concentration – and will frustrate Porter immensely.

Luis Gil’s goal from the weekend was eerily similar to the Gershon Koffie one above, just losing track of a runner near the top of the box, while Chance Myers’ header from a Matt Besler long throw is a different proposition.

Without the duo of Will Johnson and Diego Chara manning the middle of the pitch in recent weeks, a soft centre has been exposed:

But Toronto does not have much through the middle to really threaten. 

Their attack-in-numbers policy does leave them susceptible to the counter, when players are pressed forward and turnovers are forced in the midfield:

Toronto should look to move the ball quickly to exploit any gaps – another facet of the game TFC has failed to excel in thus far.

And finally, Milos Kocic, in his limited first team action, has shown some of his old problems, namely holding onto the ball:

TFC should definitely follow up on any shots, as Kocic is liable to leave an unexpected loose ball.

Points of Interest

This will be only the fourth match between the two clubs; Toronto is unbeaten against Portland having won their first meeting 2-0 and drawn the next two by 2-2 score lines.

It is only their second visit to JELD-WEN Field, having come from behind in 2011. Eddie Johnson – not the Seattle one – and Jack Jewsbury put the Timbers in front with goals fifteen minutes either side of half-time, but Peri Marosevic and Danny Koevermans would equalize in the final twenty minutes of play.

Their only meeting last season saw Sal Zizzo put Portland in front in the 21st minute. Eric Hassli and Luis Silva would reverse the result with goals six minutes apart, only for Nagbe to level in the 82nd.

Plenty of links between the two clubs, with former Reds, Ryan Johnson and Kocic in Portland and former Timbers, Jeremy Hall and Joe Bendik in Toronto, while goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack has worked with both sides; first in Toronto and now in Portland.

For pre-match listening, NASN’s Soccer Made in Portland is highly recommended.

Roster Update
– It was announced today that Portland acquired Brad Ring from San Jose. Ring can play either in midfield or in the backline and is presumably available for Saturday.