Three-man backline, inverted midfielders mark tactical victory over Timbers

Three-man backline, inverted midfielders mark tactical victory over Timbers

I think I'm going to be living on that win for a while — at least until Wednesday — as it's still getting me quite invigorated at odd moments in the day. I'd contemplated not needing any sleep until then, but that's clearly not going to work, and besides, I've already slept a fair amount since Saturday night. Anyhow, onward and upward, right?

Let's talk tactics a bit, shall we? I won't delve too much into the statistical side of things, as I've not the time right now, but do look for that tomorrow.

Three At the Back

Moving to a three-man back line once Jonny Steele came on for Tony Beltran in the 78th minute was, I think, a masterstroke by Jason Kreis. At the same time, it could have bombed completely — fine margins, you know?

In the makeshift 3-5-2, Olave played wide right, Wingert wide left, and Borchers in the middle. It gave us a bit more in midfield, and with Saborio and Espindola keeping defenders on their toes, our midfielders got a lot more time on and off the ball. It paid off in no small measure.

It was a bold move, though, especially in that it potentially opened us up to a quick breaking opportunity. With Nat Borchers in the middle, we did have as solid a man as we could ask for, and with Nick Rimando at the back acting as a sweeper-keeper, we were able to pick up on any attacking movement that came our way. As we controlled the game from that point forward, it really does seem to have worked out well. I mean, of course it did — we scored two goals!

It was, to my mind, the crowding of the midfield and the confusing of markers from that point forward that really opened up space for those two goals. With Saborio moving ever forward in the box and Espindola darting around it, we were able to keep the two central defenders busy — Saborio's movement isn't often discussed, but it's of real quality — and Espindola was able to keep Portland's left back quite busy indeed.

That all combined well to leave central midfielders a bit confused, as we went from having one, maybe two midfielders in attacking positions to having five: We had Javier Morales doing most of the attacking, and Ned Grabavoy kept showing intelligent movement. Cue the big change: We had Will Johnson, Jonny Steele, Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy pushing up and sitting just outside the 18-yard-box.

That movement allowed us to do two things really well: We won the ball back in positions high up the pitch, and we were able to attack, attack, attack. A spell of sustained pressure at the right moments created the first and the second goal. I can't speak highly enough of our mentality to pull that off — we fought until the final whistle and it made all the difference.


In addition, Jason seemed to toy with an inverted box-to-box setup — akin to an inverted winger system, where a left-footed winger will play on the right side and vice versa, but different in that these were central midfielders used as such. Grabavoy on the left — perhaps out of necessity after Gil's lackluster game against Chivas — and, after substitutions, Will Johnson and Jonny Steele, both ostensibly better on the left, came in on the right side. It afforded them perhaps that extra little room to get a pass off, and in Jonny Steele's case, it gave him a chance to cut inside for that brilliant goal.

Whether we'll continue to see that or not, I'm not sure. It was a nice move to tighten our midfield on a notoriously narrow pitch. For me it was a demonstration of Jason Kreis's tactical acumen — something, I think, he's not recognized for often enough.

'Til tomorrow, folks.