The Portland Timbers kick off what will hopefully be another deep run into the US Open Cup tomorrow when they face off against Orlando City U23 at home in Providence Park. With the World Cup break underway and a number of loanees returned to the team, the Timbers could field many different lineups against Orlando, so we take a quick look at who might be available and try to guess the team's lineup.
Andrew Weber will almost certainly get the start here for Donovan Ricketts, giving the Timbers' go-to keeper the evening off as Weber sees the pitch in a game for the first time since the start of April. Ricketts has taken a few knocks in the Timbers' recent matches and could probably use the time to recuperate, although he is certainly in good enough shape to play if called upon.
Potential Starter: Weber
Pa Modou Kah and Norberto Paparatto are both dealing with injuries and, according to tweets from Jamie Goldberg yesterday, will likely be given the World Cup break to rest and recuperate. With the pair out of contention, the Timbers will be very limited in their options in the center of the defense, likely leaning on veterans Danny O'Rourke and Rauwshan McKenzie to fill the void at centerback. Other potential options for the team include Jack Jewsbury, Alvas Powell, and Taylor Peay, who has returned from his time on loan with the OC Blues, although only Peay is primarily a centerback.
On the outside, the Timbers could feature a younger line-up of Peay and Alvas Powell in the defense, giving Jorge Villafana a rest after his recent surge in minutes played. Alternatively, the match could see Jewsbury, who sat out Wednesday's match against FC Dallas, or Michael Harrington, who played Wednesday but had been out with ankle issues for several weeks before that, step into the fullback role on either side of the pitch. O'Rourke could also line-up on the outside of the Timbers' defense if need be..
Potential Starters: Powell, McKenzie, O'Rourke, Harrington
Midfield and Attack
The one player that Timbers fans should bank on here is Rodney Wallace. Since his return to practice, the Timbers have been targeting this match as Wallace's first start for the team and, after a series of games on loan to Arizona United to get his fitness up, it looks like he is on track to get the start tomorrow. In the two matches he played with Arizona, both starts, Wallace went a total of 130', picking up a goal in his first appearance.
The makeup of the rest of the midfield is more in flux as the Timbers have brought back George Fochive, Aaron Long, and Schillo Tshuma from their recent loans and all three players will be available for tomorrow's match. The returned loanees join Michael Nanchoff and Kalif Alhassan as the group likely to compete for a spot in the midfield alongside Wallace.
Ben Zemanski, who has been out for three weeks due to a concussion suffered against Chivas USA in March, is clear of concussion symptoms, but will need to go through the team's return to play protocol. Although the date at which he could be available has not been specified, Zemanski will almost certainly miss tomorrow's match due to the protocol's multiple day process.
The forward spot is much more limited in the potential players who could slot in there, but also is the hardest to guess at, given the even contributions of the Timbers' forwards in recent matches and the team's lack of young depth players there. Tshuma could potentiall play up top, but he has generally been effective as a player attacking from out wide, a trait already common in the Timbers' likely attacking midfielders. As such it will probably be either Maximiliano Urruti, who has been rested for most of the team's last two games, or Gaston Fernandez, who has seen moderate but limited minutes.
The dark horse at the forward position, however, is Steve Zakuani, who Porter mentioned as a player that could slot in up top during preseason; an experiment that the Timbers have yet to employ in match play. Although it seems unlikely that the Timbers would start Zakuani up top, there is no better time for the Timbers to give an experiment like that a try.
Potential Starters: Fochive, Long; Alhassan, Nanchoff, Wallace; Urruti
Who do you think will start? Who do you wish would start? Let us know in the comments below.