March 20th, 2013 by Kelly McLain
My NASNPortland compatriot Michael Orr dug deep into the Timbers defensive shape during their 1-1 draw against Seattle. Much of the focus revolved around Jack Jewbsury and his role stationed in front of the center back duo of Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Mikaël Silvestre. Jewsbury’s impact is thoroughly explained in Orr’s piece, but now let’s see it in pictures:
↑ One of the things Jewsbury helped with during the match was clogging up Seattle’s passing lanes, particularly to their forward pairing of Eddie Johnson and Sammy Ochoa. This screenshot from early in the match shows a ball being played into Johnson. Jewsbury is there to make things difficult.
↑ But perhaps more importantly, Jewsbury frees up Jean-Baptiste to take a step or two back and get space—and some calming piece-of-mind. Imagine if Jean-Baptiste were marked tight on Johnson…there would be no cover behind and a slick move could easily see Johnson in on goal. As it turned out, Jewsbury disrupted Johnson and Portland took over possession.
↑ Here’s another example of Jewsbury taking over defensive duties on a Seattle forward and subsequently allowing one of the center backs—in this case Silvestre—to momentarily drop off into a sort of “sweeper” role. (You’ll also notice Ben Zemanski sitting pretty deep in this shot, but he had just dropped off to cover behind Jean-Baptiste who had gone to challenge for a header. This isn’t a look that we would normally expect to see.)
↑ Now here’s an example of a breakdown. Silvestre, unlike before, doesn’t drop off and allow Jewsbury to execute his role. There’s a moment of uncertainty and both players go to pressure the ball. That leaves a pocket of space behind the defense which Seattle exploited quite nicely. You’ll remember this as the buildup to the play where Jean-Baptiste pulled Johnson down from behind just outside the penalty area (and might have gotten lucky to only be shown yellow).