KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Sal Zizzo's Energy vs. Juan Pablo Angel's Guile

Young midfielder's moxie will come up against Angel's experienced cleverness

They say that when one door closes, another door opens. In the often-revolving doors of MLS rosters, salary caps, and ebb and flow of a season, one sees this happening often. It is particularly true of new MLS teams giving opportunities to players to prove themselves in a fresh environment, and one that Timbers midfielder Sal Zizzo has taken full advantage of.

A promising young player who wowed knowledgeable soccer folks playing for the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup in 2007, he bolted for Germany and signed with Hannover 96. Unable to crack the first team on a consistent basis, he played with their reserve squad for a while before a season ending knee injury sidelined him in 2009. Back in the MLS in 2010 and buried on a Chivas USA squad where he only picked up one start, the Timbers plucked him in exchange for allocation money in the offseason.

Since then, he has quietly and quickly—literally—gone about his business. Often brought in as a second half sub early in the season, Zizzo brought electrifying pace to the wings often madly dribbling past opponents in attacking thrusts. Making an impact in the reserves and eventually the first team, Zizzo has played his way on to starting XI for the last six matches and picked up 3 assists to go along with it—one in the signature win against the Galaxy on Aug. 3.

In a way, Zizzo is a personification of the energetic Timbers Army: He is in perpetual motion; pushing and challenging while helping set the tempo for the team. There is often an audible gasp heard throughout the JELD-WEN Field crowd whenever Zizzo touches the ball all in anticipation for what he might do with it. In a word, the midfielder has moxie and his presence on Wednesday night (8pm PT, ROOT Sports750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM) is vitally important.

On the other side of the pitch, Chivas USA also has a player fresh from the revolving door who brings an incredible wealth of experience and cleverness: Juan Pablo Angel. How Zizzo’s energetic efforts for the Timbers stacks up the veteran guile of Angel will have a large impact on each team's play and brings us to Timbers’ soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match:

Robbie Earle's
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Sal Zizzo's Energy vs. Juan Pablo Angel's Guile

Juan Pablo Angel has more goals over the last four years in MLS than anyone else in the league. A former Colombian international and striker with Aston Villa in the English Premier League, the Designated Player started 2011 with the L.A. Galaxy after four impressive years in New York. Unable to click and find the right groove with the Galaxy, he was moved across town to Chivas USA once the Galaxy acquired ex-Tottenham striker Robbie Keane.

While much hullabaloo was made of the Irishman’s first MLS goal, lost in the shuffle a bit was Angel’s debut goal with the Goats coming in his first match against New England. For a team that—just like the Timbers—is fighting for a playoff spot, Angel’s arrival is a most welcome one for Chivas. Though he may have lost a step, his nose for the goal and inventiveness within the 18-yard box is impressive.

Angel's soccer IQ shows a veteran eye towards the entire proceedings on the pitch. For all of Zizzo’s upstart energy, Angel’s guile and leadership will pose a formidable challenge for the Timbers. Though the two may not be lined up directly against each other, their respective abilities to influence the play of their teams will be essential to determining which side leaves the pitch with the ever-valuable three points.