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By The Numbers: Portland Timbers vs FC Dallas

Taking a sneak peak into the playoff match against the Timbers

MLS: FC Dallas at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly comparing the two teams statistically is going to be a rather tricky affair. Because of the pandemic both the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas had their games restricted to mostly a regional affair and neither team had a remotely even close run of games to compare to one another. For example, Portland got to play in the MLS is Back Tournament (and were crowned champions) while Dallas had to withdraw. However, despite this largely being an apples to oranges comparison, I think there’s still something to glean from it to give us some insight to how both teams will fare against one another on Sunday.

The Basics

Basic Stats

Team GP GF GA GD
Team GP GF GA GD
FC Dallas 22 28 24 4
Portland Timbers 23 46 35 11

Just as a reminder, since neither team played the same schedule this isn’t exactly the best comparative model as Dallas played more cagey affairs, Portland went for the shootouts against their opponents as the Timbers basically nearly doubled Dallas’ offensive goal output this season. (2 GF/G for Portland vs 1.27 GF/G for Dallas)

Historically because the playoffs are a single elimination affair, most teams take on a more conservative approach to these tournament style of games. The question now is, will Portland play a little more cautiously now or will they just lean in to their style and identity and just aim to pin Dallas back?

I would’ve said they’d keep their ongoing style, especially since they’re home but without the Timbers Army behind their backs (in person), that changes things a bit. Portland and their head coach Giovanni Savarese has also figured out how to play in these tournaments having made the MLS Cup Finals in 2018, and then winning the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020. They’ve found their formulas for this kind of situation but with 2020 being the weirdest year of all, we’ll see if they make any changes to their approach.

The Extra Basics

Now let’s get a little nerdy with the stats - courtesy of American Soccer Analysis.

Nerdy Stats

Team Games ShtFShots For ShtAShots Against GFGoals For (Own goals excluded.) GAGoals Against (Own goals excluded.) GDGoal Difference (Own goals excluded.) xGFxGoals For (Own goals excluded.) xGAxGoals Against (Own goals excluded.) xGDxGoal Difference (Own goals excluded.) GD-xGD
Team Games ShtFShots For ShtAShots Against GFGoals For (Own goals excluded.) GAGoals Against (Own goals excluded.) GDGoal Difference (Own goals excluded.) xGFxGoals For (Own goals excluded.) xGAxGoals Against (Own goals excluded.) xGDxGoal Difference (Own goals excluded.) GD-xGD
FC Dallas 22 278 340 28 24 4 30.74 30.67 0.07 3.93
Portland Timbers 23 259 332 46 35 11 32.27 38.41 -6.13 17.13

The stat that really stood out to me was the Portland’s xGF compared to their GF. Portland scored 46 goals in 23 games, but based on ASA’s xG model, they should have only scored 32.27 goals. That means they punched above their weight by 14 goals - some of it is luck, and over the course of the season that number will regress back to the mean.

What does this all mean? In human talk, it means at some point, Portland’s offensive output should dry up. The question is will it happen over the course of the playoffs?

On the Dallas side, the defense has held up especially well this season having conceded just 24 goals, but their xGA was 30.74. The play of Jimmy Maurer, Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler, Bressan and Thiago Santos have helped make things a lot more difficult for the opposition to get many clear cut chances on goal - something that’ll be absolutely necessary during the playoffs.

So then what?

I expect Portland to come out playing hard and fast against Dallas, trying to set the tempo and pace of the game. If Dallas can weather the first 20 minutes without conceding, that’ll be a strong start for Luchi Gang. I anticipate Dallas will approach this with a counter attacking approach, letting Ricardo Pepi and Michael Barrios lead the line and hoping Andres Ricaurte can spring them with his left foot.