KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Eric Brunner & Kevin Goldthwaite vs. Conor Casey and Omar Cummings
With the newly minted Portland Timbers taking on the defending MLS Cup Champions Colorado Rapids tonight (6:00 p.m. PT on ROOT Sports (formerly Fox Soccer Northwest) and KXL 750), some are calling this the hardest inaugural game ever. While Timbers head coach John Spencer leads a solid and promising side to Denver, his squad face a Rapids side with perhaps the best offensive strike partnership in MLS: Conor Casey and Omar Cummings.
And that brings us to the KeyBank Match-up of the Match as selected by Timbers broadcast soccer analyst Robbie Earle.
With 51 goals between them over the past two seasons, Cummings and Casey bring a potent attack with a combination of speed and strength. Casey, who played collegiately at the University of Portland, and the Jamaican international Cummings are cut from the same feisty cloth that brought Spencer such success when he captained the Rapids as a forward from 2001-2004.
On the Timbers side, Eric Brunner was the team’s second overall pick in the 2010 Expansion Draft from the Columbus Crew where he was a stalwart defender for their 2009 Supporter’s Shield squad and a player that head coach John Spencer had his eye on from the start. Kevin Goldthwaite was a starter with New York Red Bulls from 2008-2009 with a Western Conference Championship under his belt in 2008 before coming to anchor Portland’s USSF D-2 backline. This preseason, the two combined to lead a defense that gave up only 3 goals in the run of play over eight matches. At 25 and 28 respectively, Brunner and Goldthwaite are two central defenders who bring a depth of MLS experience.
That defensive skill will go a long way in determining how the two are able to deflect the C&C onslaught and then transition the ball out to the wings, upfield, and free up a Timbers offensive counter-attack.