The last time Sporting Kansas City came to JELD-WEN Field, it was an evening that became a revelation for the Portland Timbers then-rookie midfielder Darlington Nagbe. Down 2-0 late in the first half, Nagbe uncorked a spectacular golazo that went on to win the MLS Goal of the Year.
It was audacious, skillful, and a thing of beauty.
Anatomy of a Goal: Nagbe's GOTY
But ultimately, the match ended with a loss. Sporting Kansas City held on for the 2-1 victory and went on to compete in the Eastern Conference Final in the 2011 playoffs.
For this Saturday night’s clash, the Portland Timbers will be looking to right that wrong, end a losing streak of their own and knock off a Sporting Kansas City side that has begun 2012 7-0-0 (7:30 p.m. PT ROOT SPORTS, Freedom 970, La Pantera 940 AM). However, this time, the Timbers have a more experienced Nagbe at their disposal and one that will been counted on to spark the offense.
Already busy with scoring highlight reel goals in 2012, Nagbe picked up his second Goal of the Week honors for his strike against Real Salt Lake three weeks ago. And the player has been on the move. Positioned in the wide midfield, to a central attacking position, to a withdrawn forward area, Nagbe has had moments of electrifying pace and speed on the ball.
Enter the charismatic and ebullient Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin. He’s French. He doesn’t disrespect cats. He scores goals. How the energetic sparkplug Nagbe fares against the hulking Collin brings us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up.
The continental Collin arrived in MLS last season after stints in his native France along with Spain, Greece, and Scotland. A character in the truest sense of the word with a unique style off the pitch, Collin has made a definite impact on it as well. Hulking in the backline, Collin plays a physical game disrupting opponents and blunting attacks.
He also has had a knack of late in scoring goals--coming up with two in the past week--not to mention finding the back of the net last July here at JELD-WEN Field. In a team full of energetic players, Collin provides a rock hard foundation on the backline that allows their vaunted 4-3-3 formation to hold steady.
The Timbers' Nagbe has begun to build on the promise the sparkling goal displayed last season. Already with three goals in 2012, he has the natural ability to ignite an attack from any section on the field. Though his second goal against RSL won Goal of the Week, his first showed pure audacity in blowing past Kyle Beckerman before firing it home.
Nagbe 2.0: Goal vs. RSL
It is that audacity that the Timbers will need to knock off the foreboding Collin and his coterie of lively teammates. Sporting's attacking threats are well known, however their defense has surrendered only two goals all season. Can Nagbe use his slippery elusiveness to ease past Collin & Co.? Will his deft touch come into play to free the fire-and-brimstone that inhabits striker Kris Boyd? It'll all become clear on Saturday night.
Should Nagbe be able to step up and help lead the assault, then there is a real hope that the Timbers may end two streaks at once: their own losing streak and SKC’s unbeaten start.