The Story So Far
Last Wednesday, the Portland Timbers traveled north on I-5 to Tacoma and beat the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in a baseball stadium. The Timbers were lifted to victory by a Brian Fernandez brace, his first goal came just six minutes into the match, and his second was scored in the 50th minute to give the Timbers the 2-1 victory and a chance to move on in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to the Round of 16.
The LA Galaxy drew amateur side Orange County FC, the final remaining amateur side in the tournament. The match remained scoreless until the 50th minute when Efrain Alvarez scored the first of two goals on the night. Add in a goal by 22-year-old rookie Emil Cuello, and the Galaxy finished with a 3-0 win over Orange County FC.
Can the Timbers keep the cup run going or will the LA Galaxy stop their run on Wednesday night in Providence Park?
What To Watch For
LA Galaxy (9-6-1, 28 pts)
Both teams play two matches this week, so it’ll be interesting to see what Guillermo Barros Schelotto comes up with as far as a lineup goes. I’m pretty sure we won’t see many of the starters with a game on Saturday, rotation will be the name of the game. One player I’m sure we’ll see is wunderkind 16-year-old Efrain Alvarez.
He scored a brace against Orange County FC and added two helpers and is considered fairly dangerous on the attack, definitely someone to watch for. He’s not overly experienced at the senior level, as he’s only played four matches for the Galaxy in 2019, but he’s already shown brilliance on the pitch which even has national teams in two countries salivating for his services.
Here’s a good look at his first goal against OCFC, a free kick from just outside the box. This goal was his first for the senior side.
LA are looking for their third U.S. Open Cup, the last time the Galaxy and the Timbers played was last season in the Round Of 16 (deja Vu?). The Timbers secured in the win inside the friendly confines of Providence Park, 1-0. So the Galaxy could be looking for a measure of revenge, but they’re doing it with a new coach (rest in peace Sigi) and some hot young talent.
Look for the Galaxy under Schelotto to play a possession based game and have no problem getting comfortable in the opposition's half. Look for them to play down the wings, with the fullbacks getting forward to pour crosses into the box. In their match against Orange County FC they played a 4-3-1-2, and the Timbers could see that again on Wednesday night at Providence Park.
Against OCFC the Galaxy fielded a strong lineup. I don’t think we’ll see guys like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Perry Kitchen, Jonathan dos Santos and the like Wednesday night. With a Saturday fixture awaiting them, I’m pretty sure they’ll field a young-ish lineup, much like I expect the Timbers to do; more on that below.
Portland Timbers (4-7-2, 14 pts)
Like the Galaxy, the Portland Timbers have a weekend match as well; they’ll be facing the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night, so that will play a factor in who gets the start in the U.S. Open Cup. One player who I’m sure will play, and they should really build the team around, is Sebastian Blanco. As you recall, he will not be available Saturday against the Dynamo due to yellow card accumulation.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a couple loans coming in from T2. I’d expect Diego Valeri, Brian Fernandez, Diego Chara, to sit on the bench, though Chara could get the start both Wednesday and Saturday - just because of the limited choices. This match, one player I wouldn’t mind seeing get minutes is Foster Langsdorf. This would be the perfect opportunity to get him a start and see what he can do. And with a match on Saturday, I’m all about playing the kids.
It’ll definitely be a mixed bag as far as the starting eleven goes. With the way things have been going, I’d expect Steve Clark to get the start in goal, though I can be proved wrong (again). The team will be without Eryk Williamson, Marco Farfan, Andy Polo, and Andres Flores, as they are off with their respective national teams. The injury list is free and clear as of this writing and I hope it stays that way.
So my hope here is that Gio builds the mixed bag of players around Sebastian Blanco; it’s by far the smartest thing to do. I highly doubt he goes with a 4-4-2 here, and we’ll see the Timbers (most likely) lineup in a 4-2-3-1, that lone striker will most than likely be Jeremy Ebobisse, I mean it could be Langsdorf, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
With the win against Seattle, Portland has posted a 10-7 record in the U.S. Open Cup since joining MLS in 2011, including the team’s deepest run in the annual competition in 2013, reaching the semifinals against Real Salt Lake. The June 19 match will mark the third meeting between the Timbers and LA Galaxy in U.S. Open Cup play, with the sides last meeting in the Round of 16 at Providence Park on June 15, 2018, as Portland earned a 1-0 win.
This match will be available on ESPN+ with no blackout.
Brian Fernandez is on a roll, he’s averaging 1.74 goals per 90, he has 6 goals across all competitions, while it is a small sample size he still leads the team. Jeremy Ebobisse is second with a 0.39 goal per 90.