Different Look For USOC Cup Could Help Timbers In The FutureNew faces, tweaked lineup impress as Portland advances in USOC
by Ray Marcham | Monday, June 23, 2014
It was an easy win, but for the Portland Timbers, Tuesday night was much more than the score.
One aspect of the Timbers’ win in the US Open Cup on Tuesday night was the chance for Caleb Porter to experiment a bit and give a few players some much needed playing time. That it was a USL PDL side, Orlando City U-23s, helped in the decision process.
It also could determine who takes the field for the Timbers for the USOC 5th Round match next Tuesday, as it will be just 3 days before the MLS season resumes for Portland. Sporting Kansas City visits Providence Park on June 27, a vital home match as the Timbers look to climb towards a playoff spot.
The experiments from Tuesday night that could be repeated next week were fascinating. Rodney Wallace was back, playing 80 minutes and having a number of good opportunities throughout the match. Jack Jewsbury was back in the midfield, along with Michael Nanchoff. Kalif Alhassan was also back in the lineup, playing 90 minutes for just the 3rd time this season.
The back 4 was a bit different, with Alvas Powell moving in to Jewsbury’s usual spot on the right side. But he only played 56 minutes before being replaced by Taylor Peay. And, wouldn’t you know, Peay scored his first Timbers goal in his first match with Portland off a nice pass from Maxi Urruti. Danny O’Rourke and Rauwshan McKenzie were the center backs, while Michael Harrington made his first appearance since his ankle injury in his usual spot on the left side. Andrew Weber got important time in goal, as well, helping shake off some of his rust.
Urruti and Wallace were the strikers on Tuesday night, and could be paired up again next week. Urruti got to play the full match, which hasn’t happened in 2 months. Porter also experimented with him, having him play farther back than usual in the 2nd half. That Urruti had 2 assists on the night and set up a number of other chances was quite impressive.
It was also a night where Porter got to play three young players, all 2014 SuperDraft picks, for the first time with the first-team in a regular match setting. Peay, the Timbers’ 2nd round pick from the Washington Huskies, impressed greatly in his debut beyond the goal. George Fochive, a 3rd round pick from Connecticut, also made his Timbers debut in the 2nd half, replacing Gastón Fernández in the 71st minute. Porter made a special mention about Fochive in his post-game press conference, saying that he was impressed with how comfortable the UConn alum looked once he got in the match.
Also making his Timbers debut, and a much anticipated one, was 1st round pick Schillo Tshuma. He came in for Wallace in the 80th minute, and while it was a brief appearance, Porter wanted to make sure Tshuma got time in with Urruti and in a match situation with the Timbers.
Peay, Fochive and Tshuma are examples of how the Timbers want to use USL Pro to help get them playing time and have them ready. All three were on loan to various USL Pro clubs and got plenty of playing time. Wallace also was sent to USL Pro to help get back into game shape, and the 2 players on the bench who weren’t used, Jake Gleeson and Aaron Long, were also called up from USL Pro loan assignments for the match.
Don’t be surprised if they are back on the bench, at least, for the USOC match on Tuesday. The experienced gained in the tourney will be valuable as the Timbers’ season goes on, whether for spot duty in the MLS season, an injury replacement or needed depth once the CONCACAF Champions League starts in late summer. They may also see some time back in USL Pro, getting valuable minutes playing in games instead of just training in Portland.
The win on Tuesday meant more than just advancing in the Open Cup. Porter got to mess with his lineup, see some young players in match situations and get some of his regulars a chance to play a full 90 minutes.
And it could happen again next Tuesday, because each aspect is important as the season moves on.
NEXT UP: June 24 – US Open Cup: Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas. Timbers.com.