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Drilling down on: at Portland 1, Vancouver 1

May 27, 2012, 12:50 AM EDT

Vancouver Whitecaps v Portland Timbers Getty Images

Man of the Match: Darlington Nagbe has been moved all around Portland’s attack as John Spencer tries to find a balance between putting him in places to score goals and getting him on the ball as often as possible. Tonight Nagbe played at the tip of a midfield diamond, a position that served Portland well thanks to the return of Kalif Alhassan. With Alhassan’s threat wide, Nagbe was able to spark Portland’s to-date-dormant counter attack, connecting on 41 of 45 passes in the process.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Unfortunately for Portland, those counterattacks led to nothing. They still need to get their forwards (whichever ones they choose) working together to create chances. Right now, it’s a lot of get ball, shoot ball. Jorge Perlaza and Kris Boyd only combined to create one meaningful chance together.
  • That’s how a team can control 84 minutes of the match and not get all three points. Portland was the better side but only generated one goal, a score gifted to them by some bad goalkeeping by Joe Cannon (who had an … adventurous night).
  • The goal came after some good work near the line by Kalif Alhassan opened up space along the flank, giving Jack Jewsbury tons of room to cross for Boyd. Both Alhassan (for a great run in the second half) and Jewsbury (for a steadily above average night) had MotM shouts.
  • This game was delayed 25 minutes coming out of halftime, with lightning flashes keeping the players off the field (while Timbers’ supporters taunted the elements).
  • Vancouver went with more of a 4-3-3 variant, one which never worked. The midfield of Gershon Koffie, John Thorrington and Jun Marques Davidson pushed Koffie too high, too often. They trio had trouble getting the ball to their attackers – Sebastien Le Toux, Camilo Sanvezzo, and Davide Chiumiento.
  • Vancouver’s midfield is so good with Davidson holding and Koffie shuttling. The demands of MLS require some flexibility, but Martin Renne should mess with that success as little as possible.
  • Le Toux played as a number nine. I like the idea of not trying to muscle up with Portland’s defenders (Hayner Mosquera, Eric Brunner), maybe put a danger man there that could drop off the line, draw somebody out, allowing the wide men to fly into the space. Unfortunately, that never came off (see Whitecaps’ midfield issues).
  • Vancouver’s winner came after getting another nine on. Eric Hassli’s flick for Darren Mattocks created the winner, one which may have took advantage of a change forced upon Portland. Brunner had to be brought off at halftime, with a first half clash of heads the suspected culprit. The Mosquera-David Horst duo couldn’t stop Hassli-Mattocks.
  • Despite probably being second best, it was a good, well-earned point for Vancouver. Portland played well, but the Whitecaps still found a way to get a road point.
  • For John Spencer, it’s another late capitulation, losing two points when his team was en route to three. Closing out matches continues to be a major issue.
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