Much has been made of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ multiple changes between 2011 and 2012. A new coach in Martin Rennie, a savvy trade for top MLS striker Sebastian Le Toux, and greater stability all around have begun to show results for the young squad as they sit 4th in the Western Conference early in the 2012 campaign.
But perhaps one of the more unsung yet key elements to the Whitecaps play of late was the signing of the South Korean legend Lee Young-Pyo. A fixture at the right back for Vancouver this season, the 35-year old veteran of three World Cups, PSV Eindhoven of the Dutch Eredivisie, and Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League has played every minute of every match in 2012 for the ‘Caps.
Silky smooth on the right side, Lee has a goal and assist already this season and his years of experience have been an enormoust asset.
For the Portland Timbers on Saturday (7pm PT, Presented by JELD-WEN Windows & Doors; ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940), they’ll be coming in with a fully healthy squad and an offense that seems to be on the upswing. Patrolling the left midfield position over the past two games, Costa Rican international Rodney Wallace has brought blazing speed and pace to the flank. Should he get the nod again on Saturday, he will come face to face with the crafty Lee. That enticingly volatile mix of speed and guile from both players brings us to Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up
|Rodney Wallace||vs.||Lee Young-Pyo|
While many foreign players often need a period of adjustment to the new surroundings of MLS, Lee has seamlessly inserted himself into the Whitecaps starting XI and stayed there. With an unbelievable work rate and endurance, Lee mans the right flank for Vancouver high helping push opponents back into their own side while also providing spot on passes to his midfielders and forwards. Moreover, Lee is a master of the free kick having scored a beauty of a goal against Columbus earlier this season.
WATCH: Lee's free kick strike vs. Crew
Wallace enters the equation with gazelle-like speed on the left side. After injuries kept him on the shelf earlier in the year and more recently having been moved up from the backline, Wallace takes a direct approach to attack. Like Lee, Wallace also has tremendous endurance and can make long darting runs into the attacking third. Though he has yet to score this season, he’s not afraid to shoot and has been threatening in his time on the wing.
The key, for both players really, will be the counter. With Lee and Vancouver’s penchant for pressing up field, Wallace will have to be sure to drop back to help his own left back in Steve Smith and the rest of the Portland defense. However, given Wallace’s own speed—not to mention Portland’s own habit of overloading the wide areas with attacks from the outside backs—Lee will need to be wary of getting caught out of position himself should the Timbers pull a quick transition forward.
Come Saturday, with the Timbers’ 2012 campaign for the Cascadia Cup beginning anew, how the Wallace-Lee showdown should be a fascinating one to watch.