Wednesday night in Tukwila represents the first US Open Cup meeting between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders since 2010. It also comes just four days before the next league meeting between the two teams. At the quarterfinal round of the Open Cup, it becomes more difficult to justify not trying to win the tournament, yet both teams are facing fairly significant injury issues. So the question becomes, just how important is the Open Cup to each side given the particular circumstances facing each team and how seriously will they take it? We asked Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart to weigh in:
With just three games left in an Open Cup run the team should take it quite seriously. Being so close to returning to the CONCACAF Champions League and the magic of Allocation Money the target is pretty simple. Hosting so often at Starfire where Sounders FC is undefeated should help that.
There may be some interference in their desires though. There are several injuries to key players. Obafemi Martins has minor hamstring issue, as does designated Open Cup keeper Marcus Hahnemann. Djimi Traore just returned to full practice and went 45 minutes against FC Edmonton of the NASL. Dylan Remick is cleared to play, but he's been out a few weeks. Clint Dempsey is taking a couple more days off. You don't have to follow Seattle tightly to see that the lineup choices are going to be a bit diminished. This means that the Wednesday starters probably look a lot like the Sunday starters. It won't be be because of a lack of desire, it's just the state of the roster right now.
Here are my answers to Dave's question:
After Monday's Open Cup draw that confirmed the winner of the game as the host of a semifinal, it has become even more difficult for the Portland Timbers to keep focus only on the league. However important points are to the Timbers (for the record, that's very important at the moment) the prospect of competing for a trophy and a chance to stay in the CONCACAF Champions League is very attractive. For Portland, who does not have any trophies in its MLS era, claiming some kind of hardware would be especially nice. In a season where the Supporters Shield is completely out of the question, there are only two other ways to get back to the Champions League (assuming a Western Conference team wins the Shield), with the Open Cup representing the most feasible.
So that's why the Timbers should be taking Wednesday's game very seriously. The flip side is that they'll be without Maximiliano Urruti, Pa Kah and Norberto Paparatto due to injury and Liam Ridgewell has yet to join the squad. Portland can take the tournament as seriously as they want but continuing to start Danny O'Rourke and Rauwshan McKenzie in central defense is likely to nullify a lot of that interest in winning. With Steve Zakuani only returning to training on Monday and Donovan Ricketts almost assuredly making way for Andrew Weber, quite a few regulars will be absent.
No matter how Portland approaches Wednesday's game, it's going to be a difficult task. But the club's coaches and front office executives continue to preach that the Open Cup is taken very seriously. If that's really the case, expect to see as strong a line-up as Portland can muster while preserving a chance to compete with what should be a stronger Seattle team by the weekend.