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Portland reacts to New England’s “parking the bus” – but does it the right way

May 3, 2013, 11:32 AM EDT

Kalifa Cisse, Rodney Wallae

No one around Portland is torn up by last night’s scoreless draw with New England. The Timbers certainly aren’t thrilled with split points at Jeld-Wen Field – but they created a bunch of chances, and that’s something.

More to the point, though, was the way Portland addressed New England’s defensively dug-in tactics. Rather than moaning and groaning about it, as we see the attack-minded occasionally do when visitors “park the bus,” they acknowledged not doing enough finishing to beat it.

That is the right attitude. No, I don’t want to see every MLS club playing this way on the road, all spit and grit and resolute defense, with a lone striker to hope for something on offense. And I do enjoy it when teams travel with intent to attack, the very way Portland did in last weekend’s victory at Kansas City.

But the reality is that teams will sometimes need to sit in and absorb. New England, short on defenders Thursday and woefully short on playoff appearances lately, can hardly be blamed for a bit of bus parking.

Problem solving is part of soccer, after all. The favorites need to score, which forces the defense-minded from the shell.

Here’s what veteran midfielder Will Johnson said about it, while noting what we told you in the previous post relating to last night’s scoreless draw, that New England is good on team defense.

No one has really taken into account that they’re a pretty good road team. They come in and park the bus. They sit everybody back and try to hit you with some of their more athletic guys on the counter. It’s pretty effective. It’s not the first place that it has worked and it’s not the last. It doesn’t have as much to do with us as what they did. The way you get them out of their shape is to punish them and we let them off the hook and it makes it easy for them.” 

  1. kselvig - May 3, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    “We had chances to put the game away in the first half-we didn’t score, we didn’t put the game away in the first half. You let them hang around and they almost caught us at the very end. You work and you train towards playing with a rhythm and being able to put pressure on the other team, maintaining possession of the ball, creating chances-we did all that and we continue to work on our finishing and all that. The opportunities are there and we need one to go in. We didn’t finish it today and that’s why we’re standing here with a tie.” – Sigi Schmid, 3 weeks ago. Not sure what was so unique about it then, or now. Teams that don’t score against the parked bus are probably generally frustrated they didn’t finish the chances they did get.

    • Steve Davis - May 3, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      But the difference is in NOT complaining about the opposition tactics. (And, yes, this was the proper reaction from Sigi, too.) We HAVE seen teams that might lament their lack of finishing, but also complain about teams playing so defensively, not “coming out to play” them and such. That’s what I always find mildly irritating.

      • kselvig - May 3, 2013 at 11:38 PM

        Fair enough. It’s going to happen. No one “enjoys” watching teams park the bus, I can only imagine it’s that much more frustrating to play against, even if strategically it’s understandable. The better teams like Seattle and Portland will still generate chances though. It’s on them to finish, as Schmid and Johnson both said. I just didn’t get why it merited the call out as something out of the norm this week, when I feel like most teams complain more about not finishing then they do about the opponents’ strategy. Then again, I’m not paid for my opinion :)

  2. creek0512 - May 3, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    As a fan of the game, I find it midly irritating when teams don’t even attempt to win.

  3. dcunitedwillriseagain - May 3, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    It sounds like this season’s New England may be turning into last season’s DC United.

  4. jumpingnots - May 3, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    And I say it again and again for the last 2 years Portland has no people in what they call it there high-flying offens,they did not have it from the start a few years ago and today it’s still the same,no people in the front line that can score.and then they put a new college coach in place to turn the tide,we do see the results don’t we ??

  5. twalkray - May 4, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to say that the Revs parked the bus, they tried to play a bit but Portland are a better possession team and I think it is a credit to the Timbers the way they pinned New England in and left them with little else to achieve but to defend, that and the Revs propensity for turning the ball over after halting an attack.

    If the Revs had gone in to Portland intending to simply park the bus I think we would have seen them start both Cisse and Simms/Caldwell instead of only one of those three and Jay Heap’s substitutions were mainly attacking players.

    • lunasceiling - May 8, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I agree. For all that I was disappointed in the draw, the game was actually very entertaining to watch (didn’t make it to this one in person, but I live just a few blocks from Jeld-Wen, and I can hear the crowd. =P ). The Revs were very defensive-minded, but always willing to counter. The Timbers had plenty of chances, including a couple of “you have to make that one” opportunities that didn’t find the net. Both keepers made some highlight reel saves. Not all scoreless draws are dull.

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