LAFC vs Portland Timbers: Open Cup Preview
A true rematch in every sense of the word, LAFC will host the Portland Timbers in the quarterfinals of the 2019 U.S. Open Cup at Banc of California Stadium on Wednesday night. The same clubs faced each other in the same instance of this competition last year in the same stadium with the Black & Gold eliminating the Timbers with a 3-2 win. However, that’s in the past…
Momentum and Motivation
Portland is coming into this match with no shortage of motivation along with a little momentum. In league play, the Timbers just handed NYCFC their first home loss of the season and are looking to do the same vs LAFC, who are unbeaten at the Banc in all competitions this year. Although his team is flying across the country for this important match, head coach Giovanni Savarese was able to rest several regular starters (Chara, Paredes, Ebobisse, Moreira and Cascante) in New York as the reserves stepped up in a massive way to help the Timbers get the result. With almost a full roster at his disposition, Savarese will be sure to field out his best starting lineup possible in such a decisive game.
The Timber’s defense along with goalkeeper Steve Clark has been absolutely fantastic as of late. Clark has recorded three consecutive shutouts in MLS play and four consecutive shutouts in all competitions this year. The security that Clark has provided this season has allowed Portland to have a magnificent record of 8 wins and 1 draw in all competitions when he is in goal. Assuming that he starts on Wednesday, it will be the first time LAFC face off against him as Jeff Antinella has been the starting goalkeeper in the previous two meetings this season. The offensive firepower of the Black & Gold combined with the outstanding defensive and goalkeeping displays of Clark and co. will surely be something to keep an eye on.
Defend The Banc
Something tells me that this game will either boost LAFC into its full potential or demoralize them into a slump for the second part of the season. Riding high at the top of the table in the Western Conference, undefeated at home (league and cup) and scoring 24 goals in the past 7 games, it is safe to say that the Black & Gold are a team filled with confidence. The game vs Portland seems to be a dangerous one where advancing means everything and elimination would just be devastating. Knowing how much Bob Bradley and his team have emphasized on winning this tournament calls for LAFC not holding anything back and possibly even getting some players that have been gone for the Gold Cup back in the starting XI.
Mark-Anthony Kaye returned from his national team last week and already contributed with a goal on Saturday in the 6-1 victory over Vancouver. With the Gold Cup tournament finished, Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman would both be available for selection vs the Timbers. Having Zimmerman back in the lineup would be exceptional for LAFC not only with defending but also as an offensive option for set pieces. As for Miller, I don’t see him playing in this one as he works his way back to match fitness (hasn’t played an official game since June 1st) and Sisniega has shown he is more than capable of covering for him.
After the final whistle, there will have been a turning point for LAFC. The question is, “Does this game provide a positive deciding factor and push the team forward or does it create a negative effect and dishearten the team into the remainder of the season?” Time to defend the Banc.