Timbers – Sporting Kansas City USOC 4th Round Preview

The Portland Timbers head to Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas to take on Sporting Kansas City in the fifth round of the 2014 US Open Cup. This is the first meeting between the two teams so far this season, but it isn’t the last. SKC and the PTFC face each other later this week in Portland. Timbers brand new designated player Fanendo Adi may make his tournament debut in KC. Having put up two separate braces and two assists in just six matches, he should be chomping at the bit to continue his form and advance his new club to the next round.

Kansas City has been hit hard by the injury bug this season. Aurelien Collin, Paulo Nagamura, and Igor Juliao are still sidelined, but any of them could return for tonight’s match. Starting defenders Chance Myers and Ike Opara are still out for the season, while Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are away with the US Men’s National Team (and hopefully beating or drawing Germany on Thursday).

What the Timbers have to watch out for is the Sporting Kansas City attack. Dom Dwyer has been on an absolute tear in 2014, having scored 11 goals in 15 games. Claudio Bieler also can’t be ignored, even though he’s found the back of the net just once so far.

Portland got a week of much needed rest following their 3-nil win over the Orlando City U23s. What I took away from that match is that Gaston Fernandez is mad. La Gata wants a starting spot in Portland and looks determined to show off his goal scoring and playmaking abilities. Expect to see him in the 11 tonight.

I’m also expecting the freshly signed Fanendo Adi to play and likely start in Sporting Park. Much as I love Maxi Urruti and the way he hounds the defense, Adi has just looked plain good in Timbers colors. Unless Caleb Porter sees a tactical advantage, I’m excited to see how Adi and the speedy Rodney Wallace combine in the attack.

The midfield and backline are where most of the questions reside for Portland. Will Jack Jewsbury continue his stint as a CDM? Or does Porter return to using Will Johnson and Diego Chara in a 4-2-3-1? Michael Harrington should start on the right, but will Norberto Paparatto return to the defense? If so, who is he paired with, Rauwshan or O’Rourke? All I can do is guess at this point and hope for news of a new CB from Merritt Paulson.

Projected Lineups:

Portland Timbers: Donovan Ricketts; Michael Harrington, Rauwshan McKenzie, Norberto Paparatto, Jack Jewsbury; Will Johnson, Diego Chara; Rodney Wallace, Gaston Fernandez, Darlington Nagbe; Fanendo Adi

Sporting Kansas City: Eric Kronberg; Seth Sinovic, Kevin Ellis, Aurelien Collin, Peterson Joseph; Soony Saad, Lawrence Olum, Victor Munoz, Toni; Dom Dwyer, Claudio Bieler