KeyBank Match-up of the Match: The Wings vs. Jordan Harvey's Red Card
Like Real Salt Lake before them, the Philadelphia Union pose a unique and defensive challenge for the Portland Timbers. Last week, we wrote in this column about the stingy RSL defense having only given up one goal all season. For the Union, they’ve been locking things down having conceded only 2 goals in their 2011 MLS campaign.
The foundation for this nearly impenetrable wall starts at the back. Philadelphia have featured the same starting defensive line for all six games: Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, and Jordan Harvey. Peter Nowak’s solid defense has been essential given that Philadelphia haven’t scored more than one goal in any of those games.
And then last week happened.
On a controversially handed out red card to Harvey, the Union went a man down against San Jose though held on to win the match.
However that red card, and the effect it has on the heretofore unchanged Philadelphia backline brings us to the KeyBank Match-up of the Match.
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Jordan Harvey's Red Card
With Harvey out for this match due to suspension, coach Nowak will obviously need to put a new face in defense. It’s a decent bet that the spot may be filled by rookie Michael Farfan who came on against the Earthquakes following Harvey’s ejection to help shore up the backline. Regardless who fills in though, this kind of change creates a crack in the Union wall.
Look for the surging Kalif Alhassan and Darlington Nagbe to shove a wedge in that crack and exploit it. Timbers head coach John Spencer’s fast paced direct style has his outside mid’s galloping up and down the wings to swing well-placed crosses into the speedy Jorge Perlaza and towering Kenny Cooper. While Alhassan has been primarily on the left and Nagbe on the right, Spencer is going to give them the freedom to swap depending on the most advantageous matchup.
Not to be forgotten are the Timbers speedy wingbacks in Jeremy Hall and Rodney Wallace. Harvey had been shutting down the left-hand side for Philadelphia though should the Union shuffle things up positionally in the back line further, the free reign that these two have to join Alhassan and Nagbe on these advance overlapping missions could bring about an overload through whatever ends up being the weak side.
While the Harvey red card happened against San Jose a week ago, the fallout may have far reaching effects for the Timbers tonight. Should Portland be able to take advantage of it, another home field victory could be on the horizon.