KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Kevin Goldthwaite vs. Dominic Oduro
By now, the story is well known: The Timbers are mired in a seven game winless streak. The momentum from a seemingly impenetrable fortress of JELD-WEN Field has seemingly evaporated.
Opinions as to the reasons for the slide, and for any potential solutions, are numerous. But one thing is for certain, the defensive backline has had a challenging run. Even in the initial home victories at home against the Chicago Fire and FC Dallas back in April, leads were shaky.
Amidst the constant shifting in the backline, one constant remained—Eric Brunner. A starter in all but one game this season, Brunner was left last week in the unenviable position of having to take down a streaking Lamar Neagle in the box and, as a result, pick up a straight red card. With Brunner out on the one-game suspension, Timbers head coach John Spencer has turned to veteran Kevin Goldthwaite to start on the backline
Goldthwaite, a starter in the season opener against the Colorado Rapids, was supplanted by David Horst, then Futty Danso. Called upon when injuries hit Danso and Horst, he came in against New York Red Bulls and tapped in a brilliant backheel goal against his former team. On the flipside, he was momentarily hesitant in the match's waning moments leading to a problematic clearance, New York cross, Rodney Wallace handball in the box, PK, tie, points left on the table. We know the rest.
But each game is a new one and Goldthwaite was brought to Portland to provide veteran experience. With 90 MLS matches to his credit, he has 35-some more career games than any other Timbers defender on the roster.
That experience and a need for a stabilizing force on the defensive backline comes up against a Chicago Fire side on Saturday (5:30pm PT, Fox 12, Estrella TV, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM) that is looking for a way to dig themselves out of a rut as well. At the forefront of their attack is the speedy Ghanaian Dominic Oduro.
Oduro’s threatening presence brings us to Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match:
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
|Kevin Goldthwaite||vs.||Dominic Oduro|
After subbing on at halftime against the Timbers on that rainy night in April, Oduro assisted on Marco Pappa’s late 81st minute goal. He injected speed and pace and has gone on to do the same as a regular starter with Chicago now tied for the team lead with 5 goals.
Though Portland’s wingbacks have been positioned for speed, neither Goldthwaite nor Danso are known as the most fleet of feet. But what the two lack in speed, they make up for with strong positioning and formidable presence. Goldthwaite’s veteran experience in leading the defensive unit as a whole will be essential in breaking down the Chicago onslaught of Oduro as well as teammates Pappa and fellow Ghanaian Patrick Nyarko.
“Kevin Goldthwaite has worked hard in training and he’s been patient waiting for his chance, so he’ll get the chance to play this weekend,” said Spencer earlier this week at training. “He tells me he should be on the team. Go play. Go show me you should be on the team. It’s easy to talk, it’s a lot harder to do.”
Goldthwaite & Co. will have help too should Spencer continue the use of James Marcelin in the defensive midfield role that he utilized in a new look formation last week against Seattle. Marcelin was solid both in blunting Seattle advances as well as redistributing the ball back into the counterattack.
Goldthwaite and his desire to show what he can do will get a great opportunity to shine against Chicago. Combine that with a defensive willingness to work together as a unit and there’s no better time to succeed than the present.