KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Jewsbury and Chara vs. Larentowicz and Mastroeni
Anticipation across the spectrum was high for the Portland Timbers inaugural MLS match against the defending MLS Cup Champions in Commerce City, CO back in March as they went to take on the Colorado Rapids. John Spencer’s new squad came into Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with cautious optimism and confidence then ran smack into a buzzsaw in a 3-1 loss.
The Portland team that now sits at a respectable 5-5-2 record with a reputation for high paced attacking soccer and a raucous home crowd at JELD-WEN Field is a very different one that was knocked around in the high elevation in Colorado. Injuries had kept some key players such as Troy Perkins, Sal Zizzo, and Darlington Nagbe from being able to make the starting XI that night.
However, another key development since then has been the addition of Designated Player Diego Chara. Signed prior to the international transfer window closing from Deportes Tolima, the box-to-box central midfielder was immediately inserted into the starting XI in mid-April alongside captain Jack Jewsbury and has quietly begun adjusting to his new surroundings.
His addition is perhaps one of the biggest changes this Timbers team has had since Colorado. Chara was a player that general manager and technical director Gavin Wilkinson and head coach John Spencer had been eyeing since November. Now that they have him and how he and Jewsbury stack up against a Colorado side Saturday night (7:30 pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game; La Pantera 740 AM, MLS MatchDay Live) with one of the most potent central midfield tandems in the league brings us to the KeyBank Match-up of the Match.
|KeyBank Match-up of the Match|
Diego Chara &
Jeff Larentowicz &
While much has been made of the Rapids’ struggles in not having both forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings in the lineup together due to injury (and it appears Cummings has been ruled out for Saturdays’ match), the Rapids have gone on an eight game unbeaten streak—the last six matches being draws. Yes, they want wins, but they are pulling out points and much of that stability is due to the incredible midfield control that the veterans Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni bring to the pitch.
Against the Timbers back in March, Casey and Cummings torched a Portland backline that was still coming into form, but they were able to do so in part due to Larentowicz and Mastroeni's masterful control and distribution in the midfield.
What a difference a few months make, however. Jewsbury’s free kick wizardry has become a potent weapon and Chara’s speed and awareness on the ball is just beginning to peak. There’s been tantalizing throughballs from Chara to his old friend and fellow ex-Deportes Tolima teammate Jorge Perlaza and Jewsbury is in the mix for an All-Star selection.
Should those two Timbers be able to control the flow of the game, shutdown the Rapids attack, get quality service into the 18-yard box to Perlaza and Kenny Cooper, all while taking on the formidable tandem of Larentowicz and Mastroeni, then the always potent JELD-WEN Field crowd could bare witness to a sweet revenge.