KeyBank Match-up: Timbers' Ability to Control Pace vs. Goats' Ability to Keep Things Tight

Portland look to bring creative quickness against parsimonious Chivas USA

KBMU @ Chivas USA, 7.18.12

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Timbers play-by-play man John Strong alluded to it in his notes on Wednesday afternoon’s match between the Portland Timbers and Chivas USA (1:00pm PT, ROOT SPORTS750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940).

The match has all the makings of the classic immovable object coming up against the irresistible force.

The Goats have scored only 11 goals in 2012—a veritable two of those were scored in their come-from-behind game against the Timbers in April—but their lockdown defense and well nigh impenetrable goalkeeper Dan Kennedy have kept them in games all season.

On the other side come a Timbers side that were flying out of the gates against the Galaxy on Sunday. Yes, the issues with the defense in the match are well documented. But the attacking flare and chances created were invigorating.

That clash of two volatile elements brings us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up.

Robbie Earle's
KeyBank Match-up
Ability to control the pace vs. Ability to keep things tight

The fact that Chivas USA are last in goals scored in MLS is well known. As is the All Star caliber season that Kennedy is putting up which gives them a fighting chance in every match they're in. But the Goats also made a canny move in picking up center back Danny Califf from Philadelphia to sharpen the backline. His veteran presence helps settle a defense that is the second most miserly in MLS having only allowed 18 goals on the campaign so far.

It comes as little surprise that head coach Robin Fraser—a stalwart defender in his playing days—would showcase a parsimonious defense. The Goats will look to pack it in and keep things tight. They'll use their speed to break on the counter and try to sneak a goal at an opportune moment then try to set up their solid wall around Kennedy.

On the other end, the Timbers come in with some true signs of creative energy. Last Saturday’s match was a tremendous back-and-forth affair with the Galaxy. While LA won the game 5-3, the quality chances created by Portland were numerous with Kris Boyd scoring his first brace in a Portland uniform.

Wednesday’s match will also see the return of Diego Chara to the Timbers midfield. How he teams in the middle of the pitch be it with Jack Jewbury, Darlington Nagbe, Franck Songo’o, Eric Alexander and/or Kalif Alhassan will be vitally important to seeing Portland look to control the pace the team will want to play.

Assuming they are able to create the same kind of chances they did against LA, then the Timbers may be able to score the all important first goal—no small feat for them on the road given they’ve only had two away from JELD-WEN Field all season.

Chivas USA will do what they do and grind hard with Kennedy directing traffic. Their win over Real Salt Lake in late March was an excellent example of how they were able to blunt the possession-heavy Claret-and-Cobalt. They did it again in early July in a 0-0 draw against Vancouver.

However, provided Portland keeps the pace quick, lively and skillful, they may be able get some much needed road points and vault back into the playoff hunt.