KeyBank Match-Up of the Match: Kenny Cooper vs. Omar Gonzalez
The very word “timbers” conjures up images of broad-shouldered strength majestically growing skyward. It is a term that particularly suits Portland Timbers striker Kenny Cooper. At 6’3”, the tall Texan holds a commanding presence on the forward line for Portland. Given the freedom to roam by head coach John Spencer, Cooper will move anywhere from floating out wide, to making sharp strong runs into the box, to tracking back into midfield to scoop up the ball, to positioning himself inside the box for expertly placed crosses and corner kicks. He’s also been a key defender inside his own box in heading opposing corner kicks away from danger.
Cooper’s second goal on the season was a perfect utilization of his height and strength as he leapt high to head in an excellent corner kick from captain Jack Jewsbury this past Sunday against FC Dallas. It was a goal scored with commanding authority.
Against the LA Galaxy however, Cooper will run into an equally tall broad-shouldered commanding giant: defender Omar Gonzalez, and that is Robbie Earle's KeyBank Match-up of the Match.
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Rookie of the Year in 2009, MLS All-Star in 2010, and a debut with the U.S. National Team in August, Gonzalez and his 6’5”, 205 lbs frame brings an authoritative presence to the central defense of the Galaxy. Quickly establishing himself as one of the premier players at his position in MLS, he will present, quite literally, the largest obstacle for Cooper has faced so far this season.
While the Galaxy’s other starting central defender Leonardo has been lost for the year, Gonzalez will definitely look to neutralize on Cooper’s strengths by capitalizing on his own arsenal of height and brawn.
And don’t just assume that the two will be going at it in the Galaxy’s defensive third. Known to push forward to be on the receiving end of offensive corner and free kicks, Gonzalez will attempt push through the scrums to utilize his height in much the same way Cooper does on the other side. Cooper will need to come back and help defend to even the aerial battle.
If Cooper has an ace in the hole, however, is that he’s not all about his head. His pace on the ball and, more importantly, his strength in maintaining possession while on the attack will definitely aid him in breaking through the Galaxy backline. Moreover, should he break through and command Gonzalez’s attention, who’s to say he won’t lay it off for a streaking Jorge Perlaza, Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury or Jeremy Hall?
Saturday's clash of the titans will be a combination of irresistible force vs. immoveable object and it’ll make for one heck of a matchup.