Tomorrow marks the Portland Timbers' first foray into this year's U.S. Open Cup contest after flaming out against the San Jose Earthquakes last year. But while tomorrow's match might seem insignificant considering the team they're playing against is a relatively unknown and new team called Cal FC, the actual ramifications of the match are quite large, especially considering that the Timbers are now in a 3 week break from the regular season MLS schedule.
Don't worry though, I'm not just going to ask you to take my word on it. I'll provide some reasons:
1. Match Fit Readiness
The biggest drag about this 3 week long break is that nobody knows what kind of team will resurface. Sure the guys will be training. They'll be scrimmaging. Hell, they'll be doing everything they usually do week in, week out EXCEPT playing meaningful games. The US Open Cup match tomorrow night and, more importantly, against the Seattle Sounders on June 5th will help alleviate the time in between the regular season matches.
If the Timbers want to capitalize on the opportunity to return to the regular season in the same shape that they just left, they'll need to win tomorrow night. An early exit from the tournament will not onl be discouraging, but it could cost them their relative sharpness on the field.
2. Knocking out the Seattle Sounders
But who are we kidding? From a fan's perspective, tomorrow's match is really all about one thing: getting to the next stage so the Timbers can knock out the Seattle Sounders before they even make it to the upper stages of the tournament.
It's true Cal FC isn't a glamorous opponent. No arguments from me about that. But they're a necessary obstacle in getting to Seattle who is the real enemy. Not to mention, of course, that getting a chance to face the Sounders before the regular season is a great opportunity to figure them out. We've still got two more home games with them after all.
3. Salvaging a Season
The Portland Timbers' current season has been, well, mixed. With a current 3-5-4 standings it would be challenging to consider this season anything but a disappointment thus far. However, proceeding up the ladder to the final stages of the U.S. Open Cup can not only revive a team who might be struggling, but it could also help salvage a broken season and prepare the team better for the future.
The U.S. Open Cup might not seem like a big trophy to some, but it does give the winner a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League. So chin up!
4. Returning as a Winner
The Timbers didn't exactly enter the break on a high point. Nope. While a draw is nice, when your on the road, last Saturday night's draw felt more like a loss than anything else. Especially with 3 points just minutes away. I mentioned in my match thread that it was a big game for this reason and while a loss would have been worse, I would be surprised if the team left the stadium feeling anything other than "gutted."
Tomorrow's and June 5th U.S. Open Cup matches, however, provide a fantastic opportunity for the Timbers to re-enter the regular season with a winning mentality, a mentality that's only achieved by, well, winning.
5. Beating Eric Wynalda
I'm not the biggest fan of Eric Wynalda. If you are, my apologies. However, now that the Timbers' owner and Wynalda have a bit of history, it makes tomorrow nights' match up all the juicier. A win tomorrow and we send Wynalda packing with his pride knocked a bit (maybe not too much considering the scale), but a loss would be absolutely devastating for those of us who really don't want to ever hear Wynalda speak again.
So there you have it. Five reasons for you to get pumped for tomorrow night's match. If you haven't bought any tickets to see the game live, it could also be a great way to see some first team action. Tickets start at just $10!