They say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
For Portland outside midfielders Sal Zizzo and Franck Songo’o that is often the case. Blessed with breakneck speed out on the wings as well as excellent ball control, the two have flourished of late in interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson’s 4-3-3 with their direct take on the ball. They come straight at opposing defenders with confidence and verve.
WATCH: Zizzo crosses to Dike
Zizzo is able to utilize his quickness to take on defenders 1v1 with the aim of blowing past them to lay in a cross for a forward. Witness Zizzo’s great pass into the box to Bright Dike last week against the Rapids as an example.
Meanwhile, Songo’o’s skill on the ball and vision across the field means he can also confidently take on defenders while keeping an eye out for a slicing pass. His cross field through ball to Darlington Nagbe against Colorado almost led to a goal last week. But the pure precision of the pass was something to behold.
When the two are on, they cause outside defenders problems. With Wednesday’s game against Colorado—the team’s second match against the Rapids in six days (6 pm PT, NBC Sports Network, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940)—how Zizzo and Songo’o will be able to maintain their run of form brings us to the KeyBank Match-up.
|Sal Zizzo & Franck Songo'o||vs.||
Rapids Outside Defenders
Last Friday night, Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja changed up his outside backs. Luis Zapata had been manning the left with Hunter Freeman holding down the right. However against the Timbers, Pareja brought in Tyson Wahl to take over the left flank and moved veteran Drew Moor—normally a centerback—out to the right.
Moor’s physicality occasionally posed challenges for Songo’o on the Portland left channel but the Cameroonian was still able to cause problems and had a few quality chances himself. Were it not for a potential Save of the Year candidate stop from Rapids netminder Matt Pickens, Songo’o would have had a sure goal courtesy of a great Zizzo cross.
On the other side, Zizzo was too fast for Wahl which ultimately led to the deciding goal mentioned above.
WATCH: Songo'o cuts open Rapids defense
The question for Pareja on Wednesday night is does he stay with this setup betting that the experience and knowledge of facing Zizzo and Songo'o on Friday helps these two in improving their defense? Or does he change it up believing that a different match-up will help neutralize the Portland pair?
For the Timbers, the attacking play of the outside wings—let along the attacking play of the whole squad—will most certainly be tested at Dick's Sporting Goods Park's altitude. Will Zizzo and Songo’o be able to maintain the same pace throughout the full 90? Do they look to score on a quick counter and then help bolster the team defense?
Much of the tone of the match will be set within the first 15 minutes—something Wilkinson alluded to earlier this week at training. Not only will the Timbers know at the outset who will be manning the outside defensive positions but Portland will also be able to gauge their momentum coming off of Friday’s win with the plan of continuing their positive momentum.
Should Zizzo and Songo’o be able to maintain their torrid runs up and down the flanks, then the Timbers may be looking at their first road win of 2012.