The Portland Timbers take on the Orlando City U23
tomorrow tonight in the team's first match of the 2014 US Open Cup. Following the Timbers' run to the semi-finals last season, the expectations are high, particularly in light of the team's struggles in league play so far, but they will need to be wary against this talented group of young players from Orlando, who have already knocked off one higher division team.
The Timbers could take on a number of different forms for this one, but the fact that the team has recalled a number of on-loan players to the side, including Taylor Peay, George Fochive, Aaron Long, and Schillo Tshuma, seems to indicate that they could be giving their starters a rest.
The extent to which the Timbers mix up their lineup remains in question. The team could go with a setup like the did against Chivas USA several weeks ago, featuring a mixture of bench players and regular starters and bringing in players like Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri off the bench. Alternatively, they could go with a lineup completely comprised of regular reserves, now that they have made their recalls.
The position most likely to see a veteran presence on the field seems to be the forward spot, barring any experimentation. With Gaston Fernandez and Maximiliano Urruti seeing less of the field than Fanendo Adi in recent weeks, one of the two of them seems like the best bet to take point in the Timbers' attack. The pair of Argentinians, despite the seven year age difference between them, are both wily players that should be expected to bag a goal or two tonight.
Orlando City U23
The Orlando City U23 started their 2014 US Open Cup run off with a 2-1 win over amateur side Jacksonville United in mid-May. Two weeks later, Orlando took on the Charleston Battery, earning a narrow win over the USL Pro side. Orlando managed to eek out a victory, triumphing through a record setting round of penalty kicks after extra time ran out with the score tied a 2-2.
The man to watch for Orlando will be Tyler Blackwood, the team's leader in both goals, 15, and assists, 4, in 2013, when he more than tripled the output of any of his teammates. This season, Blackwood is off to a slower start, only appearing in one of the U23's PDL matches so far, playing the full 90' and scoring a goal. Blackwood has also seen some action for Orlando in their cup run so far, however, scoring the team's first Open Cup goal of the year against Jacksonville.
Keys to the Match
Do not underestimate Orlando. The U23 may be comprised of college kids, but this is a team that has done well for itself recently and will by buoyed by playing in front of Providence Park's large crowd. Also, Cal FC.
Take care of business. If the match were to go to penalties, the Timbers would find themselves up against a team that recently won a 14 round penalty shootout with a score of 12-11.
Watch it on: Streaming on Timbers.com or embedded on Stumptown Footy
Kick off: 7:30 PM PT at Providence Park
Portland Timbers: 4-4-8, 6th place in the MLS Western Conference
Orlando City U23: 2-1-3, 3rd place (of 8) in the USL PDL Southern Conference's Southeast Division