KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Kenny Cooper vs. Geoff Cameron

In-form Cooper against the stalwart Cameron

Much has been said about Kenny Cooper this season, and in particular, his recent run of good form. With three goals in four very important late-season games, Cooper’s rise has been timely and essential in the Timbers quest to make the playoffs in their inaugural MLS campaign.

Timbers head coach John Spencer spoke about Cooper’s timing of late in a recent Oregonian article. Pushing the affable Cooper to be more “ruthless” around the net, Spencer said, "He's definitely answered the call for goals at the most important time of the year."

Cooper’s most recent blast against Vancouver won the MLSsoccer.com Goal of the Week and his recent pairings with Darlington Nagbe up top have given the Timbers a dynamic attack with speed, great service into the box, and a lively finishing ability.

Standing in his way for this incredibly important match with Houston on Friday (7:30 PM PT, Presented by JELD-WEN, ROOT SPORTS750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM) is the Dynamo's defender Geoff Cameron. A classic battle between offense and defense determining which of these two players will be able to best the other brings us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match.

 

Robbie Earle's
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Kenny Cooper vs. Geoff Cameron
 

 

Say what you will about the MLSsoccer.com Power Rankings—and much can and has been said by supporters, players and coaches—but in Week 29, they began clamoring for Houston to move Cameron back from the midfield and into defense.

However, beginning on Sept. 14 head coach Dominic Kinnear began having the versatile Cameron start in central defense—a position he played in the MLS All-Star game this July and one he was nominated for MLS Defender of the Year for in 2009. Far be it from MLSsoccer.com to take credit for this move, but the fact remains that the Dynamo have gone on a 2-0-2 run since the adjustment placing themselves in the 10th and final MLS playoff slot.

According to Opta’s stats via MLSsoccer.com, Cameron has successfully completed 201 of his 253 passes over that stretch—a 79% clip— since his return to the backline. His ball distribution has been solid and unlocking the pathway through him and the Dynamo defense has proven to be quite a challenge.

A challenge, yes. But not impossible. Houston may be +2 over the recent stretch in goal differential but they only have one clean sheet to show for it. Conversely, the Timbers have two clean sheets over the same stretch and four total clean sheets in the past seven.

In Cooper’s case, he has the aforementioned three goals over the same four game stretch and with Houston, he will have help from the speedy Nagbe—and/or potentially Jorge Perlaza should he start or come on in relief—to provide various points of attack for the Timbers offense. Nagbe’s constant buzzing and pace—not to mention excellent touch and service on the ball—could prove to be a of a distraction for Cameron & Co, freeing up Cooper’s confident finishing ability. Continuing the theme of a symbiotic attack, Cooper’s ongoing threat could also provide an opening for the opportunistic Nagbe as well as the rest of the Timbers speedy midfield.

Either way, Timbers goals must be scored and breaking through the veteran Cameron will go a long way towards potentially helping pick up a crucial three points for Portland and improving their run for the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs.