The Portland Timbers re-enter the US Open Cup today after a semi-final run in 2013. With several MLS clubs failing at the first asking already in the fourth round, and with Portland's recent memory of a major upset, it is unlikely that Caleb Porter's team will take its game against the Orlando City U23s lightly. So who exactly plays for the OCSC U23s, and how did they get to the fourth round? Kim Sisneros, the Orlando beat writer for Reckless Challenge, provided some answers for an unfamiliar opponent.
1. Most folks are pretty familiar now with the idea Orlando City will be moving into MLS in 2015, but might be less aware of the U23 team. Does the U23 team have a direct line to the USLPro side, or are their players on the PDL team who are affiliated with others clubs, too?
As far as affiliations go, I don't know of any U23s who are affiliated with any other club other than Orlando City. The U23s are certainly groomed for the Orlando City Pro side, but we have seen a few players sent to other clubs in trades or loan spells. Dennis Chin was the first and most recognizable U23 to move up to the pro side and thrive for the club. He was then followed by Adama Mbengue who has also thrived at the club. Most recently, Joseph Toby spent time with the U23s before heading to IMG Academy in Bradenton. Toby was then brought back to the OCSC pro side before he was sent to Arizona United where he's a defender for them today.
2. How did the OCSC U23s qualify for the Open Cup and what have they done to advance to the fourth round?
The OCSC U23 first qualified for the Open Cup in 2000 under the name Central Florida Kraze; the PDL team of that time. In 6 appearances over the years, the team had never won in Open Cup play. It marked the longest active losing streak in American soccer. However, the young Lions found a way to win against Jacksonville, against whom they lost in 2012. They won again against the Charleston Battery during penalty kicks and now they are set to face the Portland Timbers. The U23s are taught to play like the pro side so the possession game is quite apparent in the team dynamics. This is the key to the U23s success. Plus a little luck during the PK shootout with Charleston.
3. Which players should we keep an eye on in Tuesday night's game? Is there a particular goal scoring threat that could put the U23s in a position to spring the upset?
Look for Romario Williams to make some magic happen. He's a forward with a nose for goal and thus far the leading scorer for the Lions. If Andrew Brody can combine successfully with Williams, I believe the Lions offense will look dangerous. On defense look for the team to be lead by Boyd Okwuonu, Ian Svantesson and goalkeeper Tomas Gomez.
G Tomas Gomez; D Eirik Bjoernoe, Boyd Okwuonu, Ian Svantesson, Skyler Russell; M Paul Clowes, Romilio Hernandez, Noah Franke, Andrew Brody; F Romario Williams, Tyler Blackwood