KBMU vs. DCU, 9.29.12
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

KeyBank Match-up: Sal Zizzo & Franck Songo'o vs. Chris Pontius & Nick DeLeon

With the Willamette River running from south to north right through the center of downtown Portland, it should come as little surprise that the city has a plethora of bridges. Sellwood, Ross Island, Marquam, Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside, Steel, Broadway, Fremont and St. Johns all have their unique characteristics and elements.

They are the core of connectivity between Westside and East in a town often known as Bridgetown.

Timbers outside midfielders Sal Zizzo and Franck Songo’o serve much the same role for the Portland Timbers. Bridging the field from the defensive third and into the attacking third, both players shuttle tirelessly back and forth looking to make connections and keep traffic running smoothly.

Zizzo crosses ball into Dike

The pair have been particularly essential of late in providing service to the forwards. Songo’o made a zig-zagging run the length of the pitch to get the ball to forward Danny Mwanga for his MLS Goal of the Week-nominated strike against San Jose and it was Zizzo that cradled the ball into the right corner before chipping it into Bright Dike against Real Salt Lake. The attacks were direct, skilled, and timely.

Come Saturday night (7:30pm PT, ROOT Sports101.1 FM KXL / La Pantera 940), the two face an equally dangerous pair of D.C. United outside midfielders that bridge the Black-and-Red side in Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon. Which duo ends up providing the best thoroughfare for their side brings us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s Key Bank Match-up.

Robbie Earle's
KeyBank Match-up
Sal Zizzo & Franck Songo'o vs. Chris Pontius & Nick DeLeon

For United, Chris Pontius has been one of the core reasons why they are right in the thick of a playoff position. After missing much of 2011 due to a broken leg, Pontius has roared back in 2012 with 11 goals and 4 assists. This fact becomes all the more important given D.C.’s loss due to injury of 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne DeRosario.

Pontius cuts back to receive ball

Manning the left flank, Pontius is opportunistic and has a natural instinct to find space. Witness his awareness on his run against New England earlier this month. It’s the last minute cut back into space that makes it happen.

Meanwhile, his opposite number on the right flank, rookie Nick DeLeon is frequently being mentioned in Rookie of the Year discussions. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, DeLeon has put up respectable numbers with 5 goals and 4 assists in his debut campaign. Quick on the ball, DeLeon can beat you with pace and with style.

So for Saturday night, these equally fast bridging players will be constantly stretching the field with an eye towards creating connections throughout the midfield. Zizzo & Songo’o will push forward against the outside defenders of D.C. United—potentially Chris Korb and Andy Najar—while Pontius & DeLeon will do much the same against Kosuke Kimura and Steven Smith.

The question tonight in Bridgetown becomes, which pair will be able to take the match by control and make it their own?