KeyBank Scouting Report: Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids - June 23, 2013

Edson Buddle & Rapids looking to regain momentum against Portland

KBSR, Edson Buddle, Rapids, 6.21.13

Photo Credit: 
(USA Today Sports Images)

The Portland Timbers return to JELD-WEN Field on Sunday to play host to the Colorado Rapids (4pm PT, NBCSN, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940). Find out all the inside information on the opposition.

TACTICAL VIEW

What can the Timbers expect?
Always trying to play on the front foot and put their opponents under pressure, Colorado move the ball quickly, take long-range shots, and try to get service into their strikers. However, their style of play can be slightly altered if they decide to change their formation, which they have done a lot recently – playing a 4-3-3 at home to San Jose Earthquakes, but switching to 4-2-3-1 against Chicago Fire in midweek.

If they start with three strikers, it is likely that two of those will be asked to operate out wide and cut inside as often as possible. Colorado certainly has the players to fulfill that role with Deshorn Brown, Danny Mwanga and Atiba Harris able to play higher up the pitch as outside forwards. Behind them, Martin Rivero, Jaime Castrillon and Tony Cascio can act as chief playmakers, but, again, everything hinges on the system – and personnel – that they start with.

Where are they most vulnerable?
Scoring goals has been a big issue for Colorado so far with only 17 goals netted from 16 league games. A lot was expected from Edson Buddle (above) when they traded for him from  the LA Galaxy at the start of the season, but he has only played the full 90 minutes four times and scored twice. However, their entire team has been guilty of failing to finish off chances with Harris topping their scoring charts with only four goals.

Far from secure in defense, Colorado can be exposed both centrally and out wide. At outside back, Brian Mullan has been filling in on the right side and rookie Chris Klute has played regularly on the left, and while both have speed, they could be vulnerable in one-on-one situations. In the heart of their defense, Marvell Wynne has played well but is more suited at outside back. While in goal Clint Irwin still has a lot to learn, the young 'keeper has had a strong start to his MLS career.

Who are their main threats?
When they click, Colorado is a team that plays quick-passing soccer, breaks forward at speed, and shoots on goal from all angles. They can be very dangerous once they shift into top gear, especially with Hendry Thomas and Nathan Sturgis offering support and cover in midfield. The key for Colorado is getting the ball into Rivero, who is the team’s main creator and he can dictate the tempo of a game.

At set pieces, they can be a threat with Wynne and Drew Moor dominant in the air, while Buddle and Harris can slide into positions to profit from any loose balls dropping inside the penalty area. In open play, though, Colorado relies heavily on shifting the ball at pace and players, like Brown, Mwanga, Castrillon, or Dillon Powers, making surging runs. If the Timbers can track those runs and intercept their passing game, then the momentum should turn in their favor.

KEY MEN

Head coach: Oscar Pareja
Now into his second year, this Colombian tactician is beginning to make his mark after making big changes with Colorado. He knows MLS from his time playing with New England Revolution and FC Dallas, while he also served as an assistant coach for five years with the latter. Only 44, he is a young coach with fresh ideas and has adapted well to the league despite having to deal with a lot of injury problems to key personnel.

Star Player: Edson Buddle
Closing in on 100 goals scored in MLS, this quick-thinking striker is now with his fifth different team in the league and emerging as a leader for Colorado. After overcoming injury problems earlier in the season, the former United States international is starting to regain that zip to his play. Often tasking with playing as a lone frontman, Buddle is someone who links well with team-mates, holds play up, and creates space for others, but his main strength is finishing off chances.

One To Watch: Dillon Powers
The Timbers got to see just how good this young midfielder is when he smashed in his first MLS goal in their last meeting. A powerful athlete, the Texas native is an energetic box-to-box player, which means that he covers a huge amount of ground and works well in both attacking and defensive situations. Only in his first year as a professional, he is definitely an early candidate for the Rookie of the Year prize.

FLASHBACK

What happened when the teams last met?
An early strike from Powers put Colorado ahead going in at the break in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park before Hendry Thomas extended their lead from the penalty spot. But two goals from Timbers captain Will Johnson – one from a penalty – saw Caleb Porter’s team roar back and pick up a valuable point on the road near the start of their unbeaten run.

What did the Timbers learn from that game?
Play was choppy to begin with and the Timbers struggled to dominate and get their slick-passing game going, but they showed a tremendous amount of character – not only to fight back and earn a tie, but also as a defensive unit. David Horst, who was making his first appearance of the season, was immense at center back alongside Andrew Jean-Baptiste, while Johnson was a driving force in midfield.

Colorado had double the amount of shots on goal that the Timbers did, but the two teams were evenly matched in a lot of areas, like individual battles, passing accuracy, and possession of the ball. Clearly instructed to shoot when in sight of goal, Colorado kept goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts busy and it also showed their eagerness to press forward and go through the middle in a lot of their moves. Porter will have surely noticed the gaps out wide as well as how their midfield players often drifted out of position.

What did the coaches have to say last time around?

Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter
“We’ve kind of been the comeback kids. I’m going to focus on the positives, and how much progress we’ve made in the last two years, and how much progress we’ve made from last year. That’s a 3-0 game last year.”

Colorado Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja
“We had our two points in our pockets. We wanted to hold the line up in the formation we had because we knew the conditions were different in the second half with the winds. I thought the game in the second half was pretty level.”

How has Colorado fared since then?
In their most recent outing, Colorado slipped to a 2-1 loss away to Chicago Fire despite enjoying more possession of the ball, winning more duels and making more passes. Lapses of concentration at key times have let them down and led to the opposition snatching goals and securing points that should never have been on offer.

Since drawing with the Timbers, they have a record of 5-3-3, while they were also knocked out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by Orlando City. Without a win in their last three league games, there is clearly work to be done. Trading veteran Pablo Mastroeni to LA Galaxy was also a huge move for Colorado.

Did You Know?
Colorado defender Drew Moor played every minute of the Rapids’ regular season last year, which continued his theme of being an ever-present that was highlighted between 2009 and 2011 when he played 68 games in a row.

Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandTimbers.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.