Portland, Sporting K.C. to become familiar foes

Today's U.S. Open Cup match to precede MLS match Friday

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

Caleb Porter would rather not be facing Sporting Kansas City twice in four days.

But the coach of the Portland Timbers understands there are no easy solutions when it comes to squeezing the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament between league matches.

"We know the windows in terms of when the (Open Cup) games are going to be. How it fell this year for us is obviously really tricky and really difficult," Porter said.

The Timbers take on Sporting Kansas City at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Kansas City, Kan. The winner advances to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, the national soccer championship in its 101st year. The match will be streamed live at www.timbers.com. There is no radio or television.

On Friday, the same teams will gather at Providence Park in Portland for their only Major League Soccer meeting of the season.

"Ironic that it fell on a week we're playing them again," Porter said. "They're in the same situation as us, but we have to travel twice, they travel once. So maybe they don't have to rotate their squad as much."

In terms of success in the Open Cup, home-field advantage is more significant than the cramped schedule, Porter said. He noted that when the Sounders won three consecutive Open Cup titles from 2009-11, Seattle played most of its matches at home (11 of 14). In those seasons, U.S. Soccer used a bidding process to determine host teams. Beginning in 2012 it switched to a coin flip.

"The tough thing about the Open Cup — outside of schedule — is the coin flip for who goes home and away. Because, in the end, whoever wins the coin toss for each round has a much better advantage," Porter said.

The coin flip has not done the Timbers any favors. On Monday they learned that — if they win at Kansas City — they will be on the road again for the quarterfinals against either Seattle or San Jose.

At the end of May, during a stretch of three matches in eight days, the Timbers won games at New York and at Chivas USA with significantly different lineups. That experience gives Porter confidence that his team can produce two successful efforts this week.

"We feel like we need to rotate our squad to give ourselves the best chance to win both games," Porter said. "We do not want to be coming back on Friday and play an important league game with the situation we're in where we need points with guys that are chewed up.

"But, I don't want to sacrifice the Open Cup either."

In addition to his mission to bring trophies to the Timbers, a U.S. Open Cup title would secure a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League for the 2015-16 cycle. The Timbers made the Open Cup semifinals last season, their deepest run in the tournament.

Porter said that U.S. Soccer does not consult with MLS coaches about the challenges of scheduling their domestic championship.

"There are guys that work for the Open Cup that's probably spend a lot more time trying to figure that out than I do. And they know more than I do with regards to the schedules and how to balance it," Porter said.

"My job is to prepare my team to win."