KeyBank Match-up: Darlington Nagbe vs. Dan Kennedy
Every single match that Chivas USA has played this season has ended 1-0. One goal only. It gives new meaning to the phrase “one and done” as it would seem that once that ball first crosses the goaline in a game against the Goats, that’s probably all you’re going to see.
Sadly for Chivas, however, they’ve been on the wrong side of three of those 1-0 results and the fourth, where they won, was a goal by rookie Casey Townsend scored via a rare misplay from Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando.
WATCH: Kennedy's game-saving stop vs. RSL
But even with the one win out of four, Chivas USA have remained competitive in every match due in no small part to their very in form goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. The one-time USL Timbers-era draft choice (2005) has quietly become one of the more dependable shot stoppers in Major League Soccer. He saved his team the win against RSL and helped hold Sporting Kansas City and their artillery-laden corps to only one goal last week in a losing effort.
Facing Kennedy on Saturday (7:30 pm PT, KPTV Fox 12, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM), the Timbers have their own catalyzing force who has been keeping his side fired up: Darlington Nagbe. How these two essential players fare on Saturday brings us to Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up.
Kennedy is coming off a breakout 2011 season where he started 32 matches and had a career-high nine shutouts. His presence, positioning, and ability to direct traffic have helped keep up a very stingy Chivas defense that has become a clear focus for Chivas second-year head coach Robin Fraser. Working alongside ex-University of Portland and U.S. international in centerback Heath Pearce gives Kennedy an able and experienced partner in building a strong wall to deflect any oncoming attack.
Nagbe, however, presents a uniquely slippery threat. Timbers head coach John Spencer had him move around more than any other game in his young career last Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Started on the right flank in the midfield, he moved into an attacking central mid position and eventually finished the match as a second striker up top with Kris Boyd.
The dividends were evident as Nagbe was a danger every time he touched the ball. Confident and ruthless in his movements, Nagbe scored two goals—both exquisite. The first showed excellent composure and deft ball movement around RSL’s Kyle Beckerman and the second was just plain talent that Nick Rimando had little chance on and won MLS Goal of the Week.
But in taking a closer look at the MLSsoccer.com Chalkboard heat map from the match (right), you can see two things: 1. His expansive presence all over the attacking third from right to left—both goals came from the left side; and 2. Nagbe’s uncanny ball movement—he had only one unsuccessful pass on the night.
What does this mean for Kennedy and the Goats? Namely, they will have to be keenly aware of the fluid movements of Nagbe. Should Nagbe remain in form and confident, his natural talent can change the scope of the match. Nagbe will also have help as well as forward Boyd will certainly be on the hunt inside the box to finish as well. With goals at a premium against a team like Chivas, Nagbe's effIciency will be essential.
But regardless of where Nagbe lines up at the beginning of the match, should he be able to elude the frugal Goats defense and break through the near impenetrable Kennedy, then that goal may be all that the Timbers need with an always raucous JELD-WEN Field helping cheer them to a result.