Darlington Nagbe takes on Jair Benitez
USA Today Sports

Have teams figured out Portland Timbers' "Porterball"? Not yet, say the numbers

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers’ 1-1 draw on Wednesday at FC Dallas marked the lowest goal output in a two-game stretch for one of the league’s highest scoring teams.

With just one goal in that span for the Timbers – which also included a 0-0 draw with New England last Thursday – are opponents starting to figure out “Porterball?”

Not so fast, say the numbers.

Against New England, the Timbers produced season-high totals in shots (22) and possession advantage (67.4 percent). Portland’s shot total (16) against Dallas was their third-highest of the season.

After his team was shut out for the first time this season, head coach Caleb Porter said that he was happy with their possession attack and chalked it up to the fact that sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the goal. The Revolution needed nine saves from goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth – almost all of them spectacular – to get the clean sheet.

READ: Portland's Donovan Ricketts claims fifth Save of the Week honor of 2013

Against Dallas, Porter said the game was what one would expect between the league’s two hottest teams – with neither team really able to get the upper hand. Both teams came away riding eight-game unbeaten streaks.

“There are going to be games when you're not on and your rhythm isn't there, but the key thing for me is this team always just fights and works and presses,” Porter said after the Dallas game. “They're an honest group. They have a ton of belief. They're a tight team.

"Those things are going to carry us through. So we'll just keep plugging away. And in the end, a point here on the road against the best team in the league is nothing to hang our heads about.”

Now 10 games into the season, there some noticeable trends have emerged.

Portland have imposed their will on each and every opponent this season, holding a possession advantage in every game. In their five home games, the Timbers have a successful pass percentage of better than 80 percent and a possession rate of better than 60 percent.

“They roll their sleeves up every game and they don’t quit,” Porter said. “They fight and they work for each other. We’ve got some good football in there as well so we’re a very balanced team. We’re capable of adapting to any style of play.”

READ: All the quotes and notes from the Timbers' draw in Dallas

So are the last two games, indeed, an aberration in an otherwise larger trend?

If there are two numbers to point to in the Timbers’ last two games that could be a concern, it’s their passing total and possession total against Dallas. Portland completed a season-low 350 passes and held just a 50.9 percent possession advantage. And those numbers are in line with how the Timbers have played on the road, just a little less sharp in possession numbers.

But forward Darlington Nagbe told MLSsoccer.com it wasn’t so much Dallas figuring out how to shut down their possession attack but more the fact that the Timbers just didn’t quite bring it that night.

“I think most of their chances came from our sloppy giveaways,” Nagbe said. “And take away our sloppy giveaways and I don’t think they get the chances that they got. So I think it was just us not being as sharp as we have been in the past.”

Now the question remains: Can the Timbers return to their high-scoring ways when they return to the field Sunday at home against Chivas USA (5 pm ET, Univsion Deportes, MLS Live)?

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.

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