Open Cup proving ground for new Timbers
The Portland Timbers enter the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament with a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday home match against San Jose that figures to provide a stage for some of the younger members of the organization.
"The way I look at things is now this is great for the guys who want to step in to show what they can bring to the team," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese says. "We have to see now who can contribute more and more. They've been doing a fantastic job during practice."
On the Timbers' bench for Saturday's 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy were rookies Foster Langsdorf, Eryk Williamson, Modou Jadama and goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh. This on a day when Timbers 2 had a road game.
Savarese says the players who dressed for the match against the Galaxy were the 18 who had the best week of practice.
The Open Cup match will be followed on Saturday by a visit from one of the top clubs in MLS, Sporting Kansas City (7:30 p.m. Saturday). With the absences of David Guzman and Andy Polo (World Cup) and injuries to Liam Ridgewell, Alvas Powell, Jake Gleeson, Vytas and Jack Barmby, Savarese's options are limited.
The winner of Wednesday's match — and there will be a winner, be it through overtime or penalty kicks — advances to the national tournament's round of 16. That round is June 20, with pairings and sites to be drawn Thursday.
This is the 105th edition of the U.S. Open Cup. The MLS clubs from the United States enter in the fourth round after amateur and lower-division clubs have worked their way through the bracket.
• At 6-3-3 (21 points), the Timbers are fifth in the Western Conference. SKC is 8-2-4 (28).
• The MLS will take a two-week break during the early part of the World Cup, which kicks off in Russia on June 14.
• Saturday's 1-1 home draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy felt like a missed opportunity for Portland, which had its run of six wins in a row stopped one short of tying the league record.
The Timbers put most of their 10 shots on goal within easy reach of goalkeeper David Bingham.
The Galaxy were without key attacking players Gio dos Santos, Jonathan dos Santos and Ola Kamara, and they rested Zlatan Ibrahimovic for all but the final 20 minutes.
• The turnstile back four continued for the Timbers as right back Powell (thigh injury) missed the Galaxy game. Bill Tuiloma, who had started four games as a center back, filled in at right back. Larrys Mabiala at right center back has been the one constant in the back for Portland this season, though Zarek Valentin played another strong match against the Galaxy at left back, further solidifying his value to the team.
Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella credits the coaching staff for helping the Timbers be settled along the back line even with the inconsistent lineups.
"Gio and the coaches have done a good job of just preaching the same message," Attinella said. "It doesn't matter who's playing, the message for the defenders is really clear going into games, so there's no excuse not to be on the same page no matter who's playing."
• In his 215th regular-season game with the Timbers, Diego Chara made plenty of Diego Chara plays. None was more typical then the effort he made to chase down the Galaxy's speedy Emmanuel Boateng and win the ball inside the Timbers' penalty area. Chara sprinted half the length of the field to take away a high-quality scoring chance.
"In my role as defender, I can't lose that kind of play," Chara said.
The other Chara trademark: the six fouls the 32-year-old Colombian was whistled for, earning him a yellow card for persistent infraction that will force him to watch Saturday's match.
That's a significant absence. Portland is 0-11-4 in the last 15 games without Chara. The last win without their midfield disruptor came on July 5, 2015.
• Diego Valeri was clinical on his tying penalty kick, ripping his shot into the left side of the goal after Bingham guessed the other way.
Of Valeri's 64 regular-season goals for the Timbers, 13 have come from the penalty spot.
His six goals this season tie him for 10th in MLS, and he has made both of his PKs.