Before departing for Portland, Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter cautioned that the Timbers' slow start in 2014 provided no reason to take them lightly.
Although Portland is just 1-3-6 on the season, it is 1-0-2 over its last three matches, and 1-0-6 at home in 2014. While Portland has certainly drawn at home more than Head Coach Caleb Porter would prefer, the Timbers are just one of three MLS clubs unbeaten at home this season, meaning that the hostile atmosphere at Providence Park has lived up to its billing in some ways.
Statistics support the assertion that Portland has been a different team at home this season. On the surface, this is evident through goals — Portland has scored 11 times at home and just twice away this season — but let’s take a deeper look. Timbers FC is creating 10.83 chances per home match and 8.0 chances per road match. That differential of 2.83 additional chances created per home match ranks fourth in MLS among clubs with at least four matches played both home and away.
At the individual level, it’s clear that as Diego Valeri goes, Portland goes. The midfield maestro is the focal point of Timbers FC’s attack, and containing him figures to be of the utmost importance to the Crew on Saturday. The Argentine led the club with 10 goals and 13 assists in 2013, and he has notched two of each in 2014.
As you might expect, numbers indicate that he, too, is seemingly a different player at home. In 2014, Valeri has attempted 10.83 more passes per match at home than he has on the road. While that figure seems small, the next closest Portland teammate to Valeri slots in at 5.5 more passes per home match — representing nearly 50% fewer involvement.
Want more proof? Valeri is one of 27 MLS midfielders with at least 380 total passes. Of those 27, only one has a higher differential of passes at home against passes away. That’s Vancouver’s Pedro Morales, who attempts 13.7 more passes per match at BC Place than he does elsewhere.
Don't let the record fool you: Portland is a strong side, especially at Providence Park, and Diego Valeri has been uncommonly more involved at home than he has on the road this season. That places additional emphasis on Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani and the retooled Crew backline to help shut him down. It could make the difference for Black & Gold on Saturday night in the Pacific Northwest.
All numbers courtesy of Opta Sportsdata.