KeyBank Match-up: Futty Danso vs. Conor Casey
After tinkering with a 4-3-3 formation for the last few matches, Colorado Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja has a few weapons at his disposal that he hasn’t had for the better part of a year. Rapids forwards Omar Cummings and Conor Casey both are on the mend after long layoffs due to injury and with their return, Pareja has the team thinking of heading back to a 4-4-2.
“For me, the formation is obviously important, but the personnel that is there is what make things happen,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com Thursday.
“But we’re trying to check different areas that we have during the week to see if we finally can get the boys to where there’s going to be consistency in the lineup.”
The last time the Portland Timbers traveled to Colorado, it was their inaugural MLS match and Casey and Cummings proceeded to slice and dice the Timbers backline in a rough welcome to the new league.
A little over a year later, Timbers come to Mile High territory on a run having conceded only four goals in the past six matches and on the crest of a confidence-building 2-1 victory over rival Seattle Sounders.
Helping anchor the backline over part of that run has been the play of centerback Futty Danso. The Gambian international came back from a recent slate of World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers to seamlessly slide back into Timbers head coach John Spencer’s starting XI.
With the Rapids hinting at formational challenges, the hungry Conor Casey is looking to break out and find his first goal in 2012. One of the more formidable MLS strikers in recent years, he’ll come up against the equally strong Futty Danso. That battle of muscle, brawn, and soccer smarts brings us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up.
The one-time University of Portland Pilot Conor Casey has been coming back from a nagging hamstring strain. When he is on his game, Casey comes barreling at defenders with nerve and force. Strong in the air and an opportunistic finisher inside the goal box, Casey helped lead the Rapids to the 2010 MLS Cup with 13 goals on the year.
Injuries gave him a start-and-stop pace to his 2011 campaign but there’s no denying what kind of threat he brings in attack. With Colorado itching to get both Casey and Cummings back into their starting lineup, look for them to capitalize on their home field advantage and altitude adjustment.
On the other side, Danso has been the definition of solid in his play of late. Physically, the 6'3" Futty actually has two inches on Casey and is incredibly stout in defense.
A perfect example of what Danso can bring to the game came very late in the 2-1 win over Seattle last Sunday.
With the Sounders pressing forward in a last gasp attack in the 96th minute, Osvaldo Alonso fed a ball into the Timbers right corner. With both teams down to 10 men due to red cards, Sounders forward Cordell Cato raced to the ball and looked to attack.
Danso pushed out to contain, poked a toe in to jostle the ball loose and then used his sheer strength to knock Cato off the ball. It was simple, smart and effective defending.
While the Timbers will be fighting extreme heat--temps are forecast for the 90s--and a the heightened elevation, the Timbers will need that kind of smart leadership on the backline. Should Danso be able to do the same against the imposing Casey, then Portland may be able to vanquish their previous memories at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.