KeyBank Match-up of the Match: MLS vs. EPL

POR v. WBA one of 5 MLS/EPL clashes

MUOTM vs. West Brom, 7.20.11

Photo Credit: 
(Getty Images)

Tonight when the Portland Timbers take on West Bromwich Albion from the English Premier League (8:00 pm PT, Live webstream at www.portlandtimbers.com750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM, presented by Verizon Wireless), they are one of five different matches on the evening between MLS and EPL:  Manchester United takes on Sounders FC in Seattle, the Philadelphia Union host Everton, Bolton Wanderers wander to Houston for the Dynamo and Newcastle United take on Sporting KC in their shiny new LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

Though friendlies have different competitive levels than regular season league games—for both sides—the matches can give a glimpse into how the two leagues are similar as well as different.

Who wins doesn’t necessarily matter other than for bragging rights, but the increasing connections between the two leagues brings us to tonight’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match

KeyBank Match-up of the Match

For the Timbers, tonight marks the third of four friendlies this 2011 season, the first two of which came against AFC Ajax of Holland—inventors and masters of the 4-3-3 formation—and Club América of the Mexico—a squad filled with numerous quick and technical players.

With West Brom, however, Portland faces a team from a  league with a style of play that is much more closely attuned with their own. Long considered a physical and fast league, the English style tends to be fast and direct—very much in line with John Spencer’s tactics this season. This should come as little surprise given Spencer’s long playing career with Chelsea as well as many other English clubs.

Timbers striker Eddie Johnson, a product of the Manchester United youth academies and the Timbers only English-born player, is quite familiar with the side. "[West Brom is] tough to beat, strong in the back, strong up top, lots of energy and very physical, which I think is pretty similar to the MLS," he said. "Obviously they've got some players who have played at a higher level so it's going to be a good test."

And while a fast direct method of play is a big generalization of both sides as the Spanish/Barcelona possession-based tiki-taka style is certainly seeping into teams across the globe, tonight’s match should present a game that looks familiar to Timbers fans.

Win or lose, watching how the Timbers perform, as well as the rest of their MLS brethren, will be an interesting study into the ongoing progression of the two leagues’ tactical philosophies.