Yesterday kicked off MLS's foray into this year's US Open Cup and the results were mixed, to say the least. Of all the MLS sides participating in the tournament, seven famously flamed out against teams from lower tiers of the American soccer pyramid. If there's one thing we have learned from what occurred yesterday it's that the Portland Timbers shouldn't be expecting an easy game tonight.
So with that said, let's take a look at each team:
Assessing Our Team
The US Open Cup works a little differently than the regular MLS season in that only 5 international players are allowed in the 18. This raises a bit of an issue as the Timbers will often use more than that in their regular starting line up. However, according to information I've been able to gather, players with green cards will not count as international players so Diego Chara and Jorge Perlaza, at the very least, should be good to go.
Additionally, there have been a rash of injuries since our last game with Eric Brunner and Sal Zizzo being listed as OUT and Mike Chabala and Mike Fucito put on the QUESTIONABLE list. That's four solid American players that the Timbers will have to do without for tonight's match. There's also been some talk about Steven Smith being given leave for his wedding, but I'm getting conflicting sources about that so, for now, I'll just assume he's in until I hear otherwise. Finally, there are a number of players on international duty as well: Steve Purdy, Rodney Wallace, Futty Danso and Jake Gleeson...
Essentially, what all this means is that we'll be seeing a fairly bare bones team tonight. With players either not allowed due to the international roster cap or unavailable for other reasons we could be looking at a hodgepodge of players who haven't seen much, or any, first team experience this year.
There's also the chance, however slim, that John Spencer and company will send out the reserves instead of the usual starters for fear of injuries against a lesser team. I hope this isn't the case, but I wouldn't rule it out just yet. Luckily, Spencer seemed pretty committed to winning in a recent article on PortlandTimbers.com.
Here's my wildly predicted starting line up:
Troy Perkins; Jack Jewsbury, David Horst, Hanyer Mosquera (int.), Steven Smith (int.); Kalif Alhassan (int.), Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Eric Alexander; Jorge Perlaza, Kris Boyd (int.)
Franck Songo'o will probably be the last international spot used on the bench.
Assessing the Enemy
I really don't know much about Cal FC. Honestly, they're pretty far down in the American soccer pyramid to really have a lot of information out there on them. That's not to say they're going to be pushovers though as they've shown already that they've got some teeth in their game, as well as some experience.
But let's get to the obvious first... Cal FC is coahced by Eric Wynalda. The guy with probably the biggest mouth in all of U.S. soccer history and he's certainly not afraid to use it. Love him or hate him, he's managed to successfully coach the team to a fairly high level in the US Open Cup tonight and that certainly says something.
Additionally, Cal FC is not without a couple of former MLS players as they sport Artur Aghasyan (Real Salt Lake, 2011) and Mike Randolph (LA Galaxy 2006-2008). How effective they were at each team and how much that will play into tonight's game is unknown, but to call this team completely "amateur" wouldn't be correct or fair.
With so many MLS sides sent packing yesterday, it's very important for the Timbers to show Cal FC and the others left over in the tournament that they're here to stay and play. It's my hope that the Timbers saw what happened in so many matches last night and take it to heart that there are no easy games in soccer. While on paper this is a no brainer, soccer has a funny way of putting those stats into the game itself.
Tonight's game kicks off at 7:30 pm at Jeld-Wen Field. If you can't make it out to the game the game will also be broadcast on the PortlandTimbers.com website.