Analysis: Portland Timbers (a). Lions Earn A Point In Oregon, But It Should've Been All 3.
All that being said, there was an undertone of frustration that accompanied this result. The Lions were a clumsy Andres Perea challenge from another Papi special and a vital 3 points, from one of the league's most challenging venues. Junior Urso's well taken finish put Orlando in control, in the second half. It was all going swimmingly, especially when Josecarlos Van Rankin was given his marching orders for the home side. Alas, it wasn't to be...
A matter of minutes later and the scores were level. Orlando had chances to get the second; not a plethora, but there were enough. For that reason, I'd stop short of blaming Andres Perea for the result. But I blame him for the penalty. The challenge, frankly, was brainless.
The Papi Special is a useful strategy, but it shouldn't be plan A
Here's the thing; I love a Papi special as much as anyone. And sometimes they are absolutely necessary, predominantly against far superior opponents. Of which Portland aren't necessarily one. Defending 1-0 leads, away from home, is a risky business. All it takes is moment of madness or magic and the whole game plan is out the window.
Statistically speaking, our lead was never entirely comfortable, even if Orlando had a degree of control for much of the match. Portland had 12 shots and an XG of 1.87 (which will have been boosted by the penalty). Orlando, meanwhile, had an XG of 0.79 from 11 shots (figure 1). Both teams created 2 big chances, scoring 1 (Portland's being the penalty). We aren't clinical enough, in front of goal, to pull this off all the time. A 1-0 lead leaves nothing to chance. Sometimes it pays off, like at the Galaxy last weekend. Other times it doesn't, as in Oregon on Sunday.
It's a useful strategy, but not one we should be employing every time we hit the road.
Figure 1 shows the attacking statistics for both teams, whole 90.
Lack of a killer instinct
As I've already alluded to, we're not clinical enough in front of goal. Benji Michel was the guilty party this week. Particularly with the 65th minute header that he headed wide, when it seemed easier to score. He just gets the chance all wrong (figure 2). He tries to cushion the ball back across goal, rather than glancing the header and putting the ball in the corner. I think he just misjudged his position in relation to the goal.
Figure 2 is a clip showing Benji Michel's missed header in the 65th minute.
And, if I'm being hypercritical, Michel needed to be more alert prior to this chance. In the 59th minute Tesho Akindele did well to flick an Alexandre Pato cross across the Portland goal (figure 3). Michel just watched on, rather than darting across goal. He's usually very good at that, so I was surprised to see him hold his position on the left. That was a potential big chance, that won't show up in the stats, but could have been a difference maker.
Figure 3 is a game still from the 59th chance for Benji Michel.
Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson
Both of these players were absolutely sensational in this game. I've been fairly critical of Jansson so far this season, but he's definitely back to his best now. Jansson's distribution was a particularly pleasing aspect of his performance; he completed 92.1% of his 38 passes and was 2/3 on long balls, including a particularly penetrative pass to Benji Michel in the first half. Defensively speaking, he performed well too; he completed 2 blocks, 3 clearances, 2 headed clearances and 4 recoveries.
The God of Thunder is back ladies and gentlemen, and he's very much still worthy. Somebody call the rest of the Avengers and let them know. What do you mean they're mostly dead? OK, never mind.
Antonio Carlos, similarly, was just as imperious. He won absolutely everything. He also provides an oft underappreciated facet to this team in an attacking sense; his passing down the line. Antonio Carlos' passing down the touchline, to Ruan in particular, is second to none. He's also not afraid to push down the right positionally to keep Orlando on the attack, and force the opposing forwards to retreat (figure 4). This is a quality we know Jansson possesses, but I don't think Antonio Carlos gets the credit he deserves in this regard.
Figure 4 shows the heatmap for Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson, whole 90.
Rated 7.6 by fotmob.com, and I actually think that's a little harsh. The Brazilian defender was absolutely superb. He even drew an on air confession of infatuation from the polarising Taylor Twellman. Twellman has a point though; Antonio Carlos is one of the best centre backs in MLS. He made 1 block, completed 7 clearances, 4 headed clearances, 5 and interceptions and made 4 recoveries. Superfluous.
Stajduhar -7- Never really overly tested, but exuded confidence when called upon.
Ruan -7- He was better here. Defended well 1 v 1 and got up and down well. Final ball leaves a lot to be desired though.
Jansson -8- His best game of the season so far.
Antonio Carlos -9- Outstanding. Won everything.
Moutinho -7- Defensively solid and provided decent attacking support.
Araujo -8- Fast becoming one of my favourite players. A destroyer.
Urso -8- Industrious as ever and took his goal brilliantly.
Pereyra -7- Hopefully he's not injured too badly, kept Chara occupied.
Akindele -7- Not the most comfortable as a RF but he does the defensive work, which is why he played there.
Pato -8- Looked unplayable at times.
Michel -6- Not his best game. Should've wrapped up the win twice.
Perea -4- Quite possibly the worst substitute appearance in this clubs' history. He'll learn from this, though. He's a good player.
Smith -6- Came in to provide more quality crosses from deep areas, but didn't get much chance to do so.
Schlegel -6- Helped with the formation change, and was able to assist the team in seeing the game out.
Kara -6- Didn't really get a kick.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“The boys are great. The plan that we worked on during the week, against a good team and a difficult place, they executed the way we imagined it so, congratulations to the players. They obviously feel they deserve much more, that they could take all three points if we didn’t concede that PK. But, collectively, it was a terrific effort. The discipline that we had and the understanding of how we can control Portland was very good. Could have been much more but, this Club is growing and the culture of going [on the road] and playing the way we did today, with intention to win the game, is phenomenal.”
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com and whoscored.com.
Cover image, top player image, B-roll footage and post match media availability video courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Game stills and video courtesy of ESPN/MLSsoccer.com/FreeSports.