KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Timbers Forwards vs. Sporting Forwards

A battle of forwards to score first

With the Portland Timbers in the midst of perhaps some of the most packed scheduling of the 2011 season—5 matches in 15 days—finding pace and balance is more key than ever.

On the flip side, Sporting Kansas City comes into tonight’s match at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park (5:30 pm PT, Fox 12750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM) fresh having not played a match since August 6. With one team in the midst of a full schedule and the other coming in well-rested, part of the challenge becomes who can come out early, take control of the match, and, ideally score that first goal.

As we've seen often this season, that first goal can give such a pyschological advantage to a team and the Timbers are a testament to that having been on both ends of the phenomenon.

Leading the way for Sporting in their quest to come out fast is their dangerous collection of forwards in Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, and Teal Bunbury.

Their goal scoring form and the timbers ability to push their respective attack brings us to Timbers’ soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match.

Robbie Earle's
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Timbers Forwards vs. Sporting Forwards

While Sporting’s Mexican striker and designated player Omar Bravo will miss tonight's match due to a red card picked up against Seattle, KC is no slouch when it comes to scoring goals.

Kei Kamara—he of 3 goals in the last 4 games—is a dangerous threat for Sporting and a player Timbers head coach knows well due Kamara’s time in Houston circa 2008-2009. Kamara is quick and uses his speed and height to create threats inside the opponent’s 18 yard box.

On a bit of a rebound, U.S. international Teal Bunbury poses another challenge. A close friend of fellow Akron Zip alum Darlington Nagbe, Bunbury has had his up’s and down’s this season but has made the most of his opportunities of late with 2 goals in his last three games—one in the the 89th minute against New England on July 30 to pull out a draw.

When the Timbers played Sporting earlier this season here at JELD-WEN Field, C.J. Sapong had a goal and an assist along with performing a falling timber celebration in front of the Timbers Army. KC head coach Peter Vermes has rotated his forwards around often this season and Sapong is a particularly interesting tool for them as he’s played in every game this season—16 of them starts.

For the Timbers, neutralizing these three—whoever takes to the field—is important but equally as important is firing up their own attack. Though Eddie Johnson went down with a concussion against Houston, Kenny Cooper has been threatening with two great chances in the late stages of that Dynamo match.

Fellow striker Jorge Perlaza remains dangerous with his timed runs through opposing defenses. The two have also gelled a bit more of late with good service to each other and there has also been the emerging play of rookie Nagbe as well as the acquisition of defender Mike Chabala. Chabala’s service into the box has been excellent and his ability to drop pinpoint passes from the wing to Cooper and Perlaza will be essential. Another key option in the Timbers arsenal is the blazingly fast Sal Zizzo. Though without a goal on the season (3 assists), he's been no stranger to heading up top-—occasionally in a 4-3-3 formation-—and could be primed for a breakout.

As was mentioned earlier, getting that first goal can be so important to a team's confidence—especially for a team on the road. Should  the Timbers front line, with help from the midfield and defense, be able to put a goal or two early up against a formidable and in form Sporting side with their own dangerous options, then the Timbers will be able to move up in the table and continue their quest for the playoffs.