This comes from another comment someone wrote about Nagbe being the Timbers best two way midfielder. Nagbe is a great player and offers far more offensive inventiveness combined with effectiveness than anyone besides Valeri on the Timbers. And he does his job on defense for the most part. He tracks back and pressures high. But he's not creating a ton of turnovers or rather he's not elevating the defense by providing a unique quality to it or performing it so well that an average player on that side of the ball could replicate.
In my mind, Diego Chara and Will Johnson offer more on both sides. This is not to say that either one is more important than Nagbe (or even a more narrowly focused offensive player like Valeri). Just that they offer a better balance of offensive and defensive plus qualities to the Timbers.
Chara has a serious offensive limitation in his oft-cursed inability to finish. But that's ignoring the fact that his counter-attacking runs are just gorgeous and thrilling and more offensively useful than just whether or not there is a goal attached at the end of it. He can make that perfectly weighted pass upfield, and he is rarely dispossessed. I think just those qualities make him more important to the offense than Nagbe is to the defense. And that's not even touching on his defensive abilities. Maybe it's because he goes on those field length forays into the opponents' third, but seeing him streaking back, passing 2 or 3 of his own teammates to win a ball back from the opposition can be breathtaking. His diminutive size doesn't stop him from tangling with the biggest of bodies and his dogged persistence is admirable without even taking into account it's inevitable effectiveness. I can think of only 2 dmids in the MLS that I'd rather have - Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman (I will gladly admit to not knowing enough about other MLS dmids for this to have a lot of power, but I'd argue that most who would argue for others are probably fans of those player's teams).
Will Johnson has been a revelation this year. Yes, he's won an MLS Cup and even prior to this season he has been an MLS All-Star. But I think few expected he could run a team as well as he has this year or that his offensive abilities went beyond the occassional rip from 30 yards out. Porter's done a good job figuring out how to play both of them as many Timbers fans thought the Timbers were getting a great addition but wondered where he would play in the midfield with Chara and Jewsbury generally fitting into the center of the midfield. His game has opened from as he's able to make his own offensive runs into the offensive third. Generally, Johnson is content to distribute from the back and he makes some beautiful switches across the field. His runs come more as late runs into the box instead of generating the break like Chara is wont to do, either taking advantage of open space or helping to generate it by a scrambling defender being pulled to cover his run. These have had more actual impact thanks Chara's as his 7 goals aptly demonstrate and while the building excitement isn't as present as a Chara run, at least you get the payoff at the end. Defensively, Johnson also tracks back extremely well after those runs and serves as an able tackler and pest, if not at the level that Chara does.
So who's the better two-way player? It's probably Will Johnson. Not being able to finish is kind of a big thing especially with how well Chara does to get him in the right positions to finish. It's great and admirable that he's in those positions, and I do think advantages come about because of that regardless of immediate goals, but given how many flubs he's had, I think Johnson's greater ability to finish trumps Chara's greater defensive abilities. That being said, I think Chara is the more indispensable of the two given the Timbers' bench as I think Ben Zemanski is more able to replace Johnson's skill set on offense and defense. Obviously not at the same level, but well enough that for a game here or there, it's not a gaping hole. Let's hope that we as fans don't have to worry about that through the rest of the season.
Let's end this with a poll, because, why the heck not?