Familiar Rapids, Timbers share plenty in common
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids probably know a lot more about the Portland Timbers than you might think.
It’s hard to prepare against a team that has never actually been a team at this level before, but the Rapids players and coaching staff know one thing for sure: The way Portland play Saturday night in Colorado’s home opener (6 pm PT, ROOT Sports (formerly Fox Sports NW; KXL 750 AM) will have John Spencer’s imprint all over it.
Spencer was a fan favorite during his time with the Rapids and his jersey is one of a handful that hangs down behind one of the goals at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as a mark of respect. The Scotsman will be more than keen to get one over his old team in his head-coaching bow.
Gary Smith, his counterpart in the Rapids’ dugout, is expecting a Houston-like unit, the team where Spencer enjoyed great success as assistant to Dominic Kinnear.
“John’s been around a very successful Houston group,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “When you look at how Portland are set up, they are not dissimilar to how that Houston group has played. They are very dynamic, they are very competitive and they will be fit and organized.”
“We are seeing a group here in Portland that is not dissimilar to how Seattle recruited,” Smith said of when the Sounders were new to the league. “This group’s been put together with the playoffs in mind.
What John knows is, when he is asking those [experienced] guys to perform particular roles, they know what he’s after. This will be a very competitive and, I think, tight game.”
Another player who will know his role for Portland on Saturday, and for the rest of 2011 for that matter, is forward Kenny Cooper (top right). One particular Rapid knows all about him.
Drew Moor (top left), who will line up against the Timbers hoping to this year repeat his unblemished record of playing every minute of every MLS game in 2010, goes back a long way with his best friend off the field, the two of them playing high school soccer together in Texas as well as spending several years in the same locker room at FC Dallas.
“I’m best friends with Kenny and one thing I know about him is that he’s got an engine,” Moor told MLSsoccer.com. “He can score from anywhere. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s deceptively good with his feet. One thing you know for sure with him is that you have 90 minutes of hard work cut out for you.”
The respect is mutual. Cooper knows he will be up against not only his best friend but also one of the best central defenders in MLS.
“He’s a fantastic professional, he’s a great leader,” Cooper said of Moor when speaking to MLSsoccer.com this week. “He’s had success at club level throughout high school, he’s won two national championships in college and now he has an MLS ring. I’m certainly happy for his success. We’re great friends, but this weekend we’re on opposite sides of the field. “
Indeed they are but Moor says he is looking forward, nonetheless, to sharing a beer with his old friend afterwards. It will taste a lot better if the Rapids run out victors Saturday.
Additional reporting by Doug Binder