Tuesday brings the first of an interesting anomaly, back-to-back games for the Portland Timbers against Sporting KC. The US Open Cup fifth round game will be played at Sporting Park and produces a quarterfinalist. Neither team has played since winning its respective fourth round encounter. To aid in our understanding of how Sporting will be approaching this game and how its various absences will impact the team's potential performance, we turned to SB Nation's Kansas City blog, The Blue Testament. Ben Gartland provided the answers as we prepare for another away game in the US Open Cup against MLS competition.
1. Everyone knows Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are in Brazil for the World Cup, but what other absences could play a role in Tuesday's Open Cup game?
There are a few, actually, that will put major discrepancies into the Sporting KC lineup. Chance Myers, starting right back, is out for the year with a torn achilles. Ike Opara, first backup center back and logical starter for this match, is also out for the year. Uri Rosell was transferred earlier this month, leaving a hole in the starting midfield and Benny Feilhaber went down with a shoulder injury in the last match before the break. This leaves Sporting KC with the burden of having to play multiple backups turned starters in both matches this week, including Lawrence Olum and Erik Palmer-Brown. The question of quality of play is not too worrisome since most of the reserves have been able to step up this year and play well when called upon, but it brings about a question of fatigue. With two matches in four days crossing two time zones, Peter Vermes is going to have to make a decision whether to sacrifice the Open Cup match or the MLS match when fatigue and quality of play from that point comes to mind.
2. After winning the Open Cup in 2012 and the MLS Cup in 2013, just how much will Peter Vermes care about advancing deep into this year's Open Cup? With a league game coming on Friday is it likely that he'd rest those remaining regular starters?
I think the organization as a whole cares about winning as many trophies as possible but with the strain the excess matches have on Sporting KC, there has to be a priority system in place. The US Open Cup is still the easiest way to get to the Champions League, but I believe it falls under league and Champions league play based on the lineups Vermes has put out the past couple of years. Should they advance further into the tournament, I imagine Vermes will play more starters but right now I see league play taking priority.
That said, Sporting KC does have the aforementioned problem of being forced to use their depth in all scenarios. Against an MLS opponent in Open Cup play, I don't see Vermes going too deep on his bench and essentially throwing away the match for the sake of possibly winning a league match Friday. I think he'll rest what starters he can afford to rest while maintaining a decent level of play from the reserves in this Open Cup match.
3. Sal Zizzo spent three years in Portland and was always well liked by fans. Is this the kind of game where he'll get significant minutes?
I'd say there is a decent chance he gets significant minutes. Sporting KC actually threw out a top level front line last match against Minnesota United FC that did not feature Zizzo, but with the two matches this week I can see Zizzo getting one of the starts. It all depends, going back to the questions above, on which match Peter Vermes prioritizes more and where he sees his wingers producing more. Soony Saad has been playing well and Antonio Dovale is a great creator on the wing, so that leaves Zizzo as the first winger on the bench. I can definitely see Zizzo getting the start over Dovale Tuesday to save him for Friday's match, although he may get the start over Saad since Zizzo and Dovale had been working together earlier in the season.
Eric Kronberg; Igor Juliao, Eric Palmer-Brown, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic; Lawrence Olum, Alex Martinez, Claudio Bieler; Sal Zizzo, Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad