Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/10/14

The Timbers are stuck, trapped in a second gear of mediocrity that threatens to swallow our season. We aren’t terrible - have a look at possession and defensive statistics and you’ll see - but we aren’t all that good either. Everyone is pointing the finger at Kris Boyd, and he deserves a chunk of the blame, but not all of it. Where has Nagbe been for the past month? If anyone has seen him, we’d appreciate a call. Mike Fucito has had limited chances to get into the lineup, but hasn’t exactly caught the world on fire in those minutes either.

We need to shuffle some things, and shuffling always involves risk. We want to add an offensive dimension without sacrificing what we have done well lately - holding possession and reducing opponents’ goalscoring chances. Here’s how I think we can do that:

1. Start Zizzo and Alexander on the Wings

As dreadful as our finishing has been this season, I don’t agree with those calling for the strikers’ heads. There have not been that many quality crosses into the box for Boyd, Nagbe and company. We keep adding strikers - Fucito, Mwanga - and we aren’t addressing the fact that for long stretches of games, we are lacking any danger on the wings. In his limited minutes early on this season, Eric Alexander showed that he can create chances and break teams down. We know what Sal Zizzo can do in those departments. But we haven’t really seen the two of them start a game, and I’d like to give that a try.

2. Three in the Center

We started off last season on a decent offensive run. It wasn’t that Kenny Cooper was driving in the goals. It was Jack Jewsbury directing the midfield from the center and doing great work on set pieces. We all know that Jack has lost a step since last season. He’s not going to be the guy running things in the middle. I’d like to see a central trio of Chara sitting back and Nagbe and Alhassan moving forward, with Alexander and Zizzo on the wings and Boyd up front. People hate to hear about 1-striker formations, but when you have a midfield that can move forward as much as that, you sometimes only need one out-and-out forward.


So here’s what I’d like to see. It might fail, and that failure might be spectacular, but at a certain point, you need to try:

Jewsbury - Mosquera - Horst - Chabala
Alexander - Alhassan - Nagbe - Zizzo

This formation retains what we do best (our backline and Chara) and gives us enough creative options up front that maybe something will click. The danger with one-striker formations is that the striker gets isolated, but the four behind him are so offensively minded (maybe too much so) that I don’t see Boyd spending much time alone up there. I liked one thing I saw in LA - seeing Boyd come off with almost 20 minutes to play, and I think that’s a necessity. If he’s not doing the job, get him off the pitch and get Mwanga on, and do it early.

We’ve scored ten goals of our own (plus two opponents’ own goals) in thirteen games, so what, offensively, do we have to lose?

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