The 2014 Timbers are missing a key component of any team – The Alpha Dog. Caleb Porter has cited his emphasis on player psychology throughout his tenure with the Portland Timbers Football Club. However, it seems like Porter is only comfortable with one psychological profile. Porter, a self proclaimed fan of Pep Guardiola, seems to have assembled a gang of school boys. I’m sure we all remember a what a certain Alpha Dog feels about school boys.
An alpha dog is refers to the dominant dog in a pack. The dog that eats first. In soccer, he is the center of the attack. He is the man who needs to be fed. Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, Maximiliano Urruti, Kalif Al Hassan, Gaston Fernandez might as well be a faction of the unsullied.
We had an alpha pup in Jose Valencia, but instead of being patient with his immaturity we loaned him away. He is currently blossoming. Let’s compare Valencia’s 2013 numbers with Urruti’s 2014 numbers.
Minutes,Chances Created, Shots,Shots on Target(PG),Key Passes
Minutes,Chances Created, Shots,Shots on Target (PG),Key Passes
534,1,10,.1, 4 [/table]
Valencia has only one goal in his career with Portland. However, we should be wary of putting too much emphasis on goals as a statistic. You can find evidence why in this article, Central Winger: Shaky 2013 aside, MLS defenses should fear Houston Dynamo’s Will Bruin in 2014. Despite only one goal, Valencia created 12 chances and had six shots on target.
,Chances Per Minute,Shots on Target Per Minute,
Urruti 2014,0018,.00187 [/table]
Given Nagbe’s position it may be understandable that his shots on target are less frequent than Valencia’s. However, the indicators that Trencito was on his way to a leap in improvement were evident. There is no real statistical defense of Urruti’s offensive contributions. It should be noted that Diego Valeri’s through ball rate has gone from 0.6 per game in 2013 to 0.1 in 2014. Is that because Urruti leads the league in offside calls or because Valeri hasn’t been able to get past his defender? His successful dribbles have decreased from 0.7 per game in 2013 to 0.1 in 2014.
The Timbers loaned out Trencito because he’s has a counterattacking style and likes to attack players off the dribble. That style of play can sometimes lead to inefficiency in regard to possession and defending. However, there is quite a bit evidence that in MLS, possession isn’t a strong corollary to winning percentage. These two articles do a good job of illustrating that doubt - Does having more possession increase a team’s chances of winning? and Does more possession = more wins in MLS?.
One thing is clear, Valencia is the best forward we own. The decision to loan him out was disastrous in both the short- and long-term. Valencia’s contract situation is as unclear as the MLS rulebook. Perhaps he forced his way home? Is there a buy-out clause? It seems illogical to bring in a player on loan with no option to buy him, especially a young player who gives a club much to gain from his improvement as a potential asset.
For the record, I believe both Porter and Valencia had a part in his departure to South America. I think it’s very unlikely he returns. In addition, I’m sure Valencia’s seemingly innocuous run-in with the Beaverton Police leading to his arrest may have something to do with it, both from the player’s and the football club’s point of view.
Olimpo’s last game is on May 18, 2014. Valencia isn’t a regular starter for Olimpo. He’s started four games while coming on as a sub in 12. Perhaps he’s not as invaluable as is commonly thought. If Porter is smart he adapts his ideology ever so slightly and aggressively moves to bring Trencito back to the station.