KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Timbers Youth vs. Patricio Rodriguez

Young players on both side benefit from top competition

MUOTM vs. Independiente, 7.26.11

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Today marks the final 2011 international friendly for the Timbers as they take on Club Atlético Independiente from the Argentine Primera Division (8:00 pm PT, Live webstream at www.portlandtimbers.com750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM). With teams having visited from Holland, Mexico, and England, Timbers fans have witnessed a wide range of styles and teams.

Independiente is no different with a very quick and technical side. But the matches, sprinkled within the MLS regular season, also pose challenges for head coach John Spencer and his roster. The focus is always on the regular season, but the friendlies do hold value. 

“I think it’s a good experience for guys . . . to test themselves against international competition,” said John Spencer last week. “It’s just getting guys minutes who haven’t been playing regular.”

The lineups bear this out with Timbers fans getting to see some of the younger players such as Chris Taylor and Freddie Braun—both of whom played the full 90 minutes against Club America and West Bromwich Albion—get long stretches of playing time against top flight competition.

That ongoing development of talent and how it progresses comes up against an Independiente side that also features some very talented young players. And that brings us to the KeyBank Match-up of the Match.

KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Timbers Youth vs. Patricio Rodriguez

Patricio Rodríguez (above)—aka “Patito” for “Little Duck”—is a 21 year-old midfielder who plays on the wing for the Red Devils. Among the scoring leaders for the club last season in the Primera Division Clausura campaign with 4 goals and 2 assists in 16 matches (12 starts), Rodriguez is a player that head coach Antonio Mohamed will be counting on to produce even more this season. He is young, quick, and smooth on the ball.

For the Timbers, his path is not unlike the push to develop young exciting players such as Darlington Nagbe—also 21. In last week's friendly, Nagbe started against West Brom and had a spectacular game assisting on Eddie Johnson’s first goal and was a threat throughout. Building on the momentum from that game, Nagbe had another solid match in MLS league play against Columbus a few days later featuring a slaloming run that produced a shot just wide of the goal.

While Nagbe's rise has had ups and downs this season, friendlies like this give him--as well as players like Braun, Taylor, Rodrigo Lopez, Jake Gleeson and others--another chance to play and prove themselves.

With depth of a squad so essential to a team’s overall ability to win in MLS, utilizing games such as tonight’s match against Independiente provide not only a chance to see an emerging star such as Rodriguez, but also see the continued development of the overall Timbers side.

While the end score doesn’t count in the standings, the end result of producing better football players remains vital. Tonight’s match presents an excellent environment to bear witness.