The Portland Timbers may have their most recent league match just two days ago, but it is already time for the side to be back in action as they host the LA Galaxy for a Wednesday night US Open Cup match.
The Galaxy, despite winning plenty of titles under the management of Bruce Arena, have a well-earned reputation for not putting much emphasis on the Open Cup. That disregard for the tournament is only somewhat born out in the Galaxy’s results over the last five years: LA have made the quarterfinals twice since 2011, but have never failed to make the round of 16.
Regardless, the Timbers will need to find a way to balance their ambitions for more hardware in 2016 with the need to keep their key players rested. While the club has a fair number of days to rest following the Open Cup match — the Timbers do not play again until Monday evening — coming into the match will be a quick turnaround following Sunday’s gruelingly hot match against the Houston Dynamo.
As such, expect significant squad rotation from the Timbers as Caleb Porter looks to put out a side that can both be competitive and preserve his players’ legs as they head into the second half of the year.
Jake Gleeson has been a strong presence for the Timbers in goal in 2016, but given his recent injury issues it seems likely that he will be relegated to — at most — the bench for this one, giving the start to rookie keeper Wade Hamilton. Hamilton has been on the bench for the Timbers first team since Adam Kwarasey went down injured earlier this year and Gleeson stepped in to the XI, however he has yet to record a first team minute, instead spending his time on the pitch with T2.
The back line will also certainly see some changes for tomorrow. Alvas Powell picked up a knock against the Dynamo in his return from a long injury layoff and will need to be replace, with Taylor Peay the most likely man for the job. On the other wing, Zarek Valentin will probably deputize for Jermaine Taylor, although seemingly out-of-favor full back Chris Klute is also a possibility. It is possible that Nat Borchers or Liam Ridgewell could play in this one, but it seems more likely that the Timbers give them a break and run out the combination of Amobi Okugo and Taylor in the center of the back line.
In the Timbers’ midfield there seem to be the most possibilities for players to retain their spots. Ben Zemanski and/or Diego Chara are still possibilities for this one and Diego Valeri is in the habit of playing every match that he is available for, so none of the Timbers’ usual midfield trio can be ruled out. However, with players like Jack Jewsbury and Ned Grabavoy waiting for their turn in the XI, this would be an opportune moment to take advantage of the team’s depth.
The Timbers’ front three will see changes as well, but the continued presence of Dairon Asprilla on the roster adds some level of doubt here. It seems likely that the young Colombian is on his way out of Portland, so expect Neco Brett and Jack Barmby to get their chances out wide, with Jack McInerney starting at the top of the formation.
The wildcard for the midfield and attack, however, is Darlington Nagbe. The Timbers’ talisman has been away with the United States Men’s National Team for the Copa America and should be fresh after being gifted only minimal playing time by Jurgen Klinsmann in the US’s fourth place effort.
The Galaxy will be going through some similar roster churn. They will have an extra day’s rest after playing on Saturday, rather than Sunday, but they will certainly need to balance playing time for their mostly aging stars against the possibility of advancing.