KeyBank Match-up: Kris Boyd vs. Kevin Hartman
The Portland Timbers head to the Lone Star State tomorrow to take on FC Dallas in their first road trip match of 2012 fresh from an invigorating First Kick 3-1 win over the Union, an MLS Player of the Week in Kalif Alhassan, and an MLS Goal of the Week winner in Kris Boyd (Mar. 17, 5:30p.m. PT ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM). Confidence is high amongst the Timbers faithful and players may be bringing their four-leaf clovers along to continue their good run of form on St. Patrick’s Day.
However, the Dallas side they’ll be facing are full of vim and vigor themselves, given their 2-1 defeat of New York Red Bulls a week ago on national television. Forward Blas Perez buzzed all over in attack and veteran goalkeeper Kevin Hartman stood strong in a late Red Bulls onslaught and attempted comeback.
Unlike the young and promising Philadelphia Union ‘keeper Zac MacMath that the Timbers faced on Monday, Hartman is an established MLS legend with 382 career starts, 172 career wins, 106 career shutouts—all three of which lead MLS all-time—and two MLS Cup rings dotting his near 15 years in MLS. In 2011, Hartman led the league in wins (15) and was tied for the lead in shutouts (13).
To say that Hartman knows his way around the nets is an understatement.
The Timbers, however, come into the match with an established legend of their own in Kris Boyd. The Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer (164), Boyd brings an 11-year career of accolades with him across the pond to Portland. Though still new to MLS, it will be Boyd’s cunning ability to break through the Dallas defense and Harman’s veteran guile which brings us to the KeyBank Match-up.
Kris Boyd had a memorable debut on Monday night scoring a clutch game-winning goal on a pinpoint cross from midfielder Kalif Alhassan. Positioned right at the top corner of the six-yard box, Boyd headed the ball in with authority in a most clinical fashion. All night, Boyd was positioned in the classic #9 position relying on quality service. His reception and ensuing deposit of the Alhassan cross was a just reward.
Off the ball, however, he was also crafty. Early in the match in the 8th minute, Boyd chested down a cross from Jack Jewsbury that he could have continued on with. However, he astutely let the ball play to Eric Alexander who ripped a shot MacMath clawed away just wide. In the 21st minute, Boyd made a dummy run on a through ball to Jorge Perlaza that Perlaza then attempted to feed back to Boyd only to have MacMath barely get to it first.
This instinct and early ability to click with his new teammates comes as no surprise to Timbers head coach John Spencer. “I think that good players should be able to play alongside good players,” he said. “The rules of soccer don’t change anywhere around the world. The ball’s the same size and pressure so I think if you’re a good player, you can go and play in any system and play well.”
And while it was only one game, Timbers fans were able to see a small glimpse of Boyd’s uncanny sense around the net as well as his ruthless finishing.
With Hartman, Boyd will come up against an equally adroit and very physical goalkeeper. Directing traffic at the base of a 4-1-4-1 formation, Hartman leads with a deep knowledge and experience around the net. With his bright shock of blond hair, “El Gato” is never one to hesitate to come off his line to snuff out an attack. Throughout his long and storied career, Hartman displays a quick and spry ability to acrobatically parry away shots from some of the best. Hartman won’t be alone either in his holding down the fort--Dallas captain and veteran centerback Ugo Ihemelu will also be keeping a close eye on the Timbers’ Scotsman.
With Dallas forward Blas Perez buzzing around the Timbers backline in another interesting match-up to keep an eye on, getting Boyd quality service in the box to bury that early goal on the road will go a long way to knocking Dallas on their heels. Should Boyd be able to unlock the Hartman wall—or at the very least command enough attention from the Dallas defense that a Timbers teammate can slip through—then perhaps Portland will be celebrating their first road points of 2012.