For Timbers, the time is now for Nagbe

Portland's offense gets a lift when Darlington's on the field
March 17, 2012 / By Mike Donovan, oregonsports.com

Going into halftime Saturday in Frisco, Texas, the Portland Timbers were behind 1-0 on the scoreboard and Darlington Nagbe was not on the pitch for the second consecutive first half.

Five minutes into the second half, Nagbe was in and the Timbers were no longer losing.

A Nagbe goal four minutes into the second half earned the Timbers a 1-1 draw in their first away match of the season.  Unlike the Timbers home opener on Monday at Jeld-Wen, Nagbe entered the game as a striker and not a midfielder.

While his goal was only set up after a disastrous screw-up by FC Dallas midfielder Daniel Hernandez, his finishing ability and presence of mind to turn and fire on net had zero to do with an opponent’s mistakes.

According to head coach John Spencer last season following the New England home game, Nagbe prefers to play up top paired with another striker. With newly acquired striker Kris Boyd a ready-and-willing presence in the box, Nagbe might have found his perfect match.

It was not just the goal that earned Nagbe the right to start at striker for the Timbers in upcoming matches. It was his touch and passing ability. His first touch is clearly far above any other potential starting forward on the club, while his ability to pass in tight spaces is a notch above Jorge Perlaza.

Nagbe’s ascent to striker would also clear up Perlaza to be used as a speedy, change-of-pace forward in the final 20 or so minutes of a match. Perlaza would have a game changing ability going against defenders that had been on the pitch for the entire game.

Another plus of Nagbe starting as a striker is how it clears up the jumbled outside midfielder position. Assuming Franck Songo’o eventually starts, the Timbers will have two defined starters (Kalif Alhassan and Songo’o) and two defined backups (Sal Zizzo and Eric Alexander) on the wings.  

While Nagbe does not have the height of most starting MLS forwards, his excellent jumping ability and sheer soccer IQ make up for his lack of inches. Nagbe displayed his ability to beat much taller defenders in last year’s 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthwaukes at Jeld-Wen.

Using his brain and leverage, the 21-year-old beat 6-foot-5 defender Bobby Burling to a ball and then slotted in a cross to Cooper, who found the back of the net. Plays like that demonstrate Nagbe’s ability to play against much taller central defenders.  

Sometimes in sports, players lose their spot not due to their inability, but simply because another player gives his team a better chance to win. And that is exactly what is happening to Jorge Perlaza. His demotion paired with Nagbe’s promotion would simply make the Timbers better.

Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for OregonSports.com and he tweets at twitter.com/TheMikeDonovan. Donovan, along with OregonSports.com published Cliff Pfenning, host the weekly web series, No Pity City, every Tuesday night at 8: 30 Pacific time.

Fresh scent descends on wrestling finals

Roseburg, Culver win, but three other team titles change hands
Feb. 25, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Roseburg and Culver defended the state wrestling titles, but three of the five other classification battles went to new schools, including Dallas, which won its first title at Class 5A.

Dallas won two weights to edge Pendleton, 164-150, and move up from second in 2011, its best previous finish.

"We're extremely proud of what our guys have been able to accomplish," Dallas coach Paul Olliff said afterward. "There's a lot of hard work by volunteer coaches and dads of the guys that made this happen."

Cascade won at Class 4A, only it second title, while Nyssa won at 3A, which ended a 10-year title run by Burns.

Culver won its sixth-straight title at Class 2A, having won each title since the state expanded to six classes in 2007.

Cascade narrowly defeated defending champion Henley, 188-185.5 getting the deciding points in a head-up battle between the schools. Cody Crawford, a junior seeded first, beat Phillip Morgan, a sophomore seeded second, 10-0 in the 182-pound final. Had Morgan won, Henley would have won the team race.

Four seniors won their fourth title: Quinn Johnston of Gold Beach, Joey Delgado of Hermiston, Zac Brunson of Churchill and Brandon Griffin of Sprague.

Wilson had two champions: sophomore Austin Wallace-Lister at 120 pounds, and senior Brian Wohan at 195, doubling the school total since the OSAA began sanctioning championships in 1948. Wilson finished 12th.

Roseburg won its third straight title with a whopping 237 points that more than doubled the second-place total of David Douglas, which edged Crater 102-101.5.

Culver overcame a solid challenge by Lowell to win 132-118.5.

Nyssa narrowly slipped past Willamina, 171-165, moving from a first-place tie when Sebastian Sanchez won at 195.



Roseburg wins its way toward title defense

Culver in dogfight for 2A crown
Feb. 24, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Roseburg took over the Class 6A state wrestling tournament with eight semifinalists Friday at Memorial Coliseum, while the 10-year run of titles by Burns unofficially came to an end.

The Indians's quarterfinalists each won two matches, including and upset by unseeded junior Brody Faas of second-seeded Jay Devera of McMinnville in the first round at 138 pounds.

Roseburg amassed 102 points, which nearly doubled second-place Sprague's 53 points. David Douglas was third at 50 points.

The remaining four title races were highly competitive, beginning with Class 2A, where five-time defending champion Culver was tied with Lowell at 27 points, and both had eight semifinalists.

At Class 5A, Hermiston's five-year run as champion was headed for an end as Dallas (83) and Pendleton (78) battled for the lead, well ahead of the Bulldogs' total (58.5).

Caascade (91), Crook County (88) and defending champion Henley (84) are dueling for the Class 4A title.

Burns, which has a 10-year run of titles at Class 3A, is in seventh place with 40 points, well behind upstart Willamina, which is leading pre-tournament favorite Nyssa 81-69.

The semifinals and finals conclude Saturday.



The 10-year run of state titles appears likely to be at an end for Burns High as the OSAA state wrestling championships prepare to play out at Memorial Coliseum Friday and Saturday.

The Hilanders have just two underclassmen seeded first or second and aren't even rated in the top 3 at Class 3A, according to the Oregon Wrestling Forum. The 10-year run, which began in 2002 when the state had just three classifications, is the longest of any school in the sport and second only to the David Douglas girls swim team's run of 14-straight titles from 1967-81.

Hermiston, the Class 5A champion, has won five straight titles, but also appears in jeopardy of having that streak end as Dallas is a significant favorite with Pendleton and Churchill also competing for title recognition.

Roseburg, at Class 6A, Henley at Class 4A and Culver at Class 2A, appear ready to defend their titles - Culver running it's string to six consecutive titles.

Individually, four wrestlers will be aiming for their fourth title: Blake Griffin of Sprague, Joey Delgado of Hermiston, Zac Brunson of Churchill and Quinn Johnson of Gold Beach.


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