Cal FC was formed barely two months ago. They play in the fifth tier of American soccer and wear hand-me-down jerseys. These guys are amateurs ... literally.
But the beauty of the U.S. Open Cup—the national championship of American footy open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee—is that a ragtag group of former SoCal college soccer stars and MLS castoffs has a chance. Tonight, that chance comes against your Portland Timbers.
And after SEVEN Major League Soccer teams fell to so-called lesser opponents last night, you'd better believe Cal FC—owned and coached by U.S. Soccer legend and "crazy uncle" Eric Wynalda—has Portland's attention.
"We’re not here to sit back and have cocktails on the bench and have a laugh and a joke," said PTFC coach John Spencer. "It’s business as usual.”
It's also a chance for Portland to advance and face arch-rival Seattle (assuming the Sounders handle their business tonight against something called "the Atlanta Silverbacks") next week.
UPDATE: Cal FC stuns Portland, 1-0, in overtime. Love reliving historical levels of fail? Click past the jump for a minute-by-minute account, plus FULL VIDEO of Spencer's post-game press conference ("You don't use the word 'embarrassed' or 'humiliated' too much in your career," he said. "Tonight I felt both.") and somber locker-room reaction.
Pretty sparse turnout, which is to be expected for a non-league match announced less than two weeks ago. Something tells me if Portland wins, there'll be a few more folks out for a fourth-round USOC meeting with Seattle.
Cal FC's players walked into the stadium before the match and looked awe-struck. They snapped some pictures of each other and one player even danced on the turf. It's safe to say they're happy to be here—will they play like it?
Remember, Wynalda and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson have a bit of a history (on Twitter, anyway). I didn't witness a pre-match summit between the pair, though Paulson did step toward the team to shake hands with someone sporting Cal FC garb. Didn't see Paulson connect with Wynalda, though.
Cal FC—Derby Carillo in goal. Jesus Gonzalez, Alberto Navarro, Michael Randolph and Hector Espinosa on defense. Richard Manjivar, Eder Arreola, Pablo Cruz and Diego Barrera at midfield. Danny Berrera and Artur Aghasyan.
Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Jack Jewsbury, Hanyer Mosquera, David Horst and Steven Smith on defense. Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chará, Darlington Nagbe and Eric Alexander at midfield. Kris Boyd and Jorge Perlaza at forward. Timbers sporting their throwback-inspired kits. Perkins sporting a helmet. Spencer has abandoned the 4-3-3 look for now, but he hasn't abandoned his the idea of using his top players in this one. Some big names out there mixing it up with no-names. This could get interesting. It should get ugly.
I could literally hear individual fans during the Anthem. The roar from Timbers Army at the end was still pretty loud. Quality not quantity, I suppose.
Also, from my bird's eye view, the head ref (William Niccolls) looks exactly like Paulson.
And away we go ... Portland's first possession ends with a poor pass that skids past Jewsbury. Cal FC gets a couple straight throws, but it doesn't lead to much.
2nd—Timbers earn the match's first corner. It's sent in far post and headed back by Mosquera, but Alexander can't contain it. Timbers maintain possession and send one lofting into the box for Boyd, but he can't quite leap to head it. Goal kick, Cal.
4th—Mosquera with a bit of a dangerous touch and pass back to Perkins. He clears, but Cal is hustling. On the counter, Smith gets some room to run near the top of the box and both Boyd and Jewsbury attempt shots, but the Cal defense steps in front.
6th—A nice ball forward lets Cal set up in Portland's end. Gonzalez shows he's not afriad to shoot and fires from distance, forcing Perkins to go up and tip it over the net for a Cal corner. It's sent in short and works its way back to Gonzalez, who fires again, but this time it's well high over the goal.
8th—Timbers with some possession on the offensive and Danny Barrera and Mosquera collide just inside midfield. Free kick coming for Portland.
9th—Alhassan lofts it toward the left corner of the six-yard box and Horst gets a header on it, but it's no problem for Carrillo. On the other end, Cal plays a long one forward and Jewsbury nearly takes Danny Barrera's head off with a high kick. No harm, no foul and Portland will have a throw.
11th—Alexander earns a Portland corner and Alhassan sends it far-post. Horst again heads it, but it's not on frame and through the box. Goal kick for Cal.
12th—Cal FC showing some offensive ability in Portland's end. Danny Barrera, particularly, looks like he belongs. Timbers hold firm and force them back a bit. After a Portland goal kick, Alhassan with a poor pass up the middle and Smith is screaming at his teammates.
13th—Smith sends one into the box for Boyd, but Carrillo leaps to grab it.
15th—Jewsbury sends in a cross for Boyd, but it's knocked away before he can get to it. Portland maintains possession and Alexander and Smith run a combination that earns Portland its third corner of the night.
16th—Alhassan sends it in and after it bounces around a bit, Jewsbury gets a swinging look at it, it's just over the bar. Best chance of the night for Portland.
18th—Boyd with a touch forward for Alexander down the East side, but Gonzalez beats him to it. On the counter, Diego Barrera gets free down the East side and crosses, but Cruz can't manage to get a shot off before Jewsbury is forced to send it over the goal line. Corner for Cal, but it's nothing doing.
20th—We're 20 minutes in and I gotta say, Cal FC isn't playing with stars in their eyes. They're holding their own thus far.
21st—Nagbe sends a through-ball in for Perlaza, but he takes a bit of a strange angle and Carrillo beats him to the ball.
22nd—Alhassan with a run down the West side and a low cross that finds its way to Nagbe's feet. He can't find the handle, though, and Cal FC clears.
23rd—Nagbe takes one from the top of the box after a nice string of passes and a three-man combo with Chará and Perlaza. Nagbe's shot is right at Carrillo, however, and it'll be a goal kick for Cal FC.
24th—Horst goes down and rolls a bit after a collision with Danny Barrera, but he's back on his feet.
26th—Cal FC earns a free kick from 30 yards away after Chará comes in a bit too hard on a tackle. It's sent in low and Boyd is there to knock it back. Manjivar gets it and fires, but it's into the crowd.
27th—Smith knocks one into the box for Perlaza, but Carrillo is there to nab it. Timbers Army doing it's "Tetris Dance" and there's never been more room to roam in the North End.
30th—Jewsbury has a go of one, but it's knocked down immediately. Timbers earn a throw deep in Cal's end, and Jewsbury keeps it alive with a nice pass back at the goal line. Alexander sends it right in for Nagbe, but he can't get a shot off at close range.
32nd—Smith cross comes in for Nagbe and Navarro heads it away. Nagbe's knee catches Navarro in the head (shoulder, maybe?) and he's down. Carrillo gives Nagbe a little push.
33rd—Navarro back on his feet. Must've been his shoulder that collided with Nagbe, or it just looked worse than it was. Cross for Boyd, but he's double-teamed in front and takes a knock to the face. He's shaking it off in front as the Timbers possess.
34th—Chará with a quick pass into the area for Nagbe, who works it back and eventually around to Alhassan. He fires, but Carrillo is there.
35th—Jewsbury cuts inside and has one right-footed from 15 yards out, but it's wide left.
36th—Alexander with a run and cross into the box, but it slides past Perlaza and Alhassan lets it go. Missed opportunity there.
37th—Cruz with a nice run in the middle and plays it ahead to Danny Barrera, but he's offside.
39th—Chará gets trapped against the sideline and knocks one off a Cal FC and over the goal line. Corner kick coming for Portland after a heads-up touch by Chará.
40th—Cross sent in and cleared away immediately. Timbers try another cross from the West side, but again Cal holds firm. If we go into halftime with a scoreless tie, that's, at the very least, a moral victory for the visitors and frustrating half for Portland's starters.
42nd—Alexander fires one from just outside the top of the box, but it baaaaarely curls high over the top right corner of the box. Nice look for the Timbers there. They'd love to get one in before half and demoralize Cal FC a bit.
44th—Perlaza with a great effort at midfield to beats about a half-dozen Cal FC defenders. He plays it forward to Chará, who finds Boyd streaking up the middle, but Boyd is waaaaaay offside. Wouldn't have mattered: Carrillo stones him on the 1-on-1 challenge right in front.
45th—Mosquera lofts one into box for Boyd, who heads it down for an easy bouncing save for Carrillo.
One minute of extra time ... Jewsbury earns a free kick in the Southwest corner. Alhassan sends it in high and Horst gets a solid header on it, but it's wide left.
END OF FIRST HALF: And we're scoreless. Portland dominates the action and shows some nice offensive flow, but Cal FC is certainly hanging in there.
For now, at least. A few Cal players were visibly winded walking off the pitch (hands on shoulders, shirts over heads) and fitness will undoubtedly be the difference in the second half. Fact is, Portland practices 5+ times per week, has a team of athletic trainers and an entire facility dedicated to keeping them match-fit. I'm betting Cal FC has little, if any, of that. But so far in this one (WARNING: AWKWARD SPORTS CLICHE AHEAD), they've shown plenty of heart. ROOO-DY! ROOO-DY! ROOO-DY!
Some stats: Portland out-shot Cal FC 10-3 (Jewsbury led the Timbers with 3) and had four shots on goal to Cal's one. Four corner kicks for Portland, two for Cal.
The only sub? Freddie Braun enters for Smith.
And we're back at it ... Portland needs to score, and quickly. Timbers Army may take up arms otherwise.
46th—Alhassan crosses one in front for Boyd, but Carrillo is there. He can't handle the ball, however, and it's a corner coming for Portland. Alhassan swings it through the box and Boyd chases it down and sends it back to Kalif. He attempts a shot, but it's deflected out by Cal.
48th—It's evident the Timbers are looking to strike quickly. They're playing at a frantic pace and not letting Cal do much of anything on possession.
50th—Long ball played ahead to Barrera, who plays a cross, but nobody's home. Goal kick coming for Portland.
53rd—Timbers really handling Cal FC defensively. Picking their pockets all over the place. Alhassan plays one into the box for Boyd, but Carrillo is there to nab it.
55th—Boyd flicks one forward for Perlaza, who gets a nice touch to get it forward, but Carrillo beats him to it.
56th—Timbers look they're getting something going as Alhassan passes it forward to Nagbe, but it's in front of him and Cal FC will possess.
58th—Alexander plays one in front for Chará, but the Cal defense is there to knock it away. Cal on the counter, but a nice defensive play by Jewsbury gets it back for Portland. Braun passes one down the East sideline for Alexander, but it's out of play.
60th—After a couple of passes, Jewsbury lofts one into the box for Nagbe, but Navarro heads it away. On the counter, Cal FC brings Portland's heart rate up a bit with some action in the box, and Jewsbury is forced to clear it over the East sideline.
62nd—Good luck for Portland as Chará makes a nice run to get into the box and attempt a cross to Boyd. It's knocked away, but right to Alhassan, whose shot is right at Carrillo. On the counter, Randolph brings it all the way into the box and lofts one into the six-yard box from a tough angle, but there's nobody home.
63rd—Jewsbury sends a cross in from 25 yards out, but it's over everyone and it'll be a goal kick for Cal.
65th—Perlaza and Alhassan dance around the top right corner of the box and Cal is forced to knock it over the line. Corner kick coming for the Timbers, but not before Brent Richards enters the game for Alexander.
66th—Alhassan sends it in, but Carrillo is there to leap up into traffic and nab it.
67th—Richards, Perlaza and Boyd with a nice combo in a dangerous spot that leads to a Richards shot. It's just over the bar, but a good look for the youngster. Goal kick taken away immediately by Portland a Richards gets another chance on a wide-open header, but he can't put it on-frame.
68th—Richards with a looooooooooong throw into the box for Boyd, but he can't get a solid header on it. Alhassan knocks a cross into the box, but Carrillo is there.
69th—Perlaza misses a wide-open opportunity from five yards away after knocks it back to him. Bad miss for Perlaza and we're still tied.
70th—Cal FC with their longest bit of possession of the half. It leads to a shot from Randolph in the far left corner, but Perkins goes to his knees and grabs it. Cal FC players looking tired, Timbers looking frustrated.
72nd—Cal FC huddling up as they make a substitution. They're laboring a bit at this point, but no matter the result, this group has given Portland anything but a gimme win.
75th—Alhassan just misses after he beats a defender 1-on-1 and fires a screamer low . Crowd groans. Attendance tonight? 5,489.
76th—Mosquera with a header right in front, but Carrillo is there. Another gasp from the crowd. Timbers are dominating possession and getting chances, but so far they've come up empty.
78th—Paul Ferreira-Mendez fires one from 25 yards out, but it's well high. Perkins' goal kick goes into Cal's end, and after two throws, Richards fires a shot that goes right off the hand of Cruz. It'll be a penalty kick for Portland.
79th—Boyd lining it up.
80th—Boyd blasts it, and it's over the cross bar. Huge gasp from the crowd, and now some boos. Yikes.
81st—Horst whiffs on a clearance attempt, but Perkins is there to go to his knees and grab it. He knocks a goal kick for Boyd, who turns and fires, but Carrillo is there. No doubt Boyd wants one ... badly.
82nd—Richards with a cross, but it's deflected through the box. Nice idea, but nobody home. Timbers throw is defended and Cal goes on the attack.
83rd—Aghasyan nutmegs Mosquera, who promptly fouls him in a dangerous spot in the Southeast corner. Barrera sends it in and Perkins comes off his line, but oh boy, did Cal FC nearly head that one in. Nagbe clears and Portland's out of danger.
85th—Chará is fouled about 35 yards out and it'll be a free kick for Portland. Alhassan sends it in and Cal defends. Nagbe gets a hold of it and plays one for Boyd, but it's deflected back by a Cal FC defender. That surprises Carrillo a bit and the crowd lets out another gasp at the sight of a potential own-goal. Carrillo adjusts to get to it, however, and it's no problem.
87th—Chará fouled on the left wing this time. Another dangerous spot. Free kick taken short for Braun, who crosses, but Cal clears.
88th—Timbers Army chanting, "CARE LIKE WE DO." Ouch.
89th—Barrera has one from 30 yards out and it's deflected over the line. Corner kick sent in and Perkins comes off his line to nab it. Perkins boots it forward to Perlaza, who gets past his defender (who slipped) and pressures the Carrillo, but nothing doing.
90th—Mosquera fouls Ferreira-Mendez near midfield and they'll take their time.
No stoppage time signaled, but we're still playing ... Richards takes one down the North end and tries a shot, but it bounds right to Carrillo. ... And now they say four minutes of stoppage, two minutes in. ... Alhassan with a nifty touch into the box for Nagbe, who finds Boyd right in front, but his shot is right at Carrillo. Golden chance there for Portland. Boyd lays down on the pitch—not sure if he's hurt or just frustrated. ... Nagbe with a nice touch forward for Perlaza, who passes it forward to a wide-open Richards, but it's just a bit too far. Another great chance for Portland, but they're again denied. ... On the counter, Barerra cracks one from the corner of the box, but Perkins goes down and grabs it.
END OF REGULATION: We're tied and headed to overtime. We'll have two 15-minute periods played in their entirety, then, if we're still knotted up, a shootout.
Ryan Kawulok will enter for Boyd, who never got back on the pitch after taking a knock on his chance up front.
TA is lecturing the team as we get set to start overtime: "PLAY 'TIL THE FUCKING WHISTLE!" Double-yikes.
And we're back at it (though we probably shouldn't be)... Timbers throw headed backward by Richards, but it's wide left.
2nd—Mosquera with a foul just inside midfield. Free kick coming for Cal FC. Nothing doing.
4th—Kawulok aggressively runs one up to the end of the box and fires one, but it's right at Carrillo.
5th—CAL FC GOAL Aghasyan slips the Portland defense and gets 1-on-1 with Perkins. Troy comes off his line and Aghasyan with a lovely little flick to net it. Holy shit, it's a 1-0 lead for the amateurs. Danny Berrera with the assist.
6th—Nagbe cracks a shot at the top of the box, but a Cal FC defender steps right in front.
8th—Timbers earn a corner. Alhassan sends it in long, and it's defended. TA again chanting "CARE LIKE WE DO!" Triple-yikes.
9th—Nagbe plays one forward for Jewsbury, who helps it along for Braun. He fires a low, skidding shot but it's right at Carrillo. They've been right at him all night.
10th—Richards is upended 25 yards out and it'll be a free kick. Cal FC trying to stall and Chará and Jewsbury are shoving guys away. Yellow card issued to Rivera. Jewsbury takes the free kick, but again, it's right at Carrillo.
12th—Timbers get another good look, this time when Jewsbury plays one back to Perlaza. He turns and fires, but it's well over the net. TA now chanting, "YOU CALL THIS MLS?" Quadruple-yikes.
13th—Timbers on the run and Chará gets one ahead to Perlaza in the box, but it's a nice tackle by Gonzalez to squash the danger. Gonzalez takes a knock and stalls a bit, and who can blame him?
Three minutes of extra time ... Jewsbury looks to crack one, but Cal FC again steps in front ... Braun is dragged down at the top of the box, but there's no call. ... Cal FC on a break, but Mosquera is there to snuff it out. ... Timbers counter and get some nifty passing in front. Kawulok finds Jewsbury right in front, but his shot just over the crossbar. Cal FC players are all over pitch, cramping and just plain exhausted.
END OF FIRST OT: Is this really happening? Cal FC leads 1-0 and the Timbers have 15 minutes to avoid an epic fail. Timbers Army all holding flags high, but they're not waving them. Were they playing "Taps?". Quintuple-yikes. Timbers huddling up and Perkins looks to be the most vocal, pointing and calmly giving directions.
And we're back at it ... Alhassan gets into the box and his shorts nearly fall off. When of those nights, I guess.
16th—Timbers with a throw in Cal FC's end, but the amateurs are holding firm.
17th—Another long throw by Richards into the box and Mosquera goes up for it, but he can't put it on goal. Cal clears.
18th—Kawulok shoots from the left corner of the box, but Carrillo is all over it. Nagbe knocks one to Alhassan, who plays one through for Perlaza, but it's just a bit too far.
19th—Alhassan sends in a great cross from the left side and Perlaza gets a point-blank header on it, but Carrillo with a diving save to preserve the lead. Braun shaken up a bit, but he's back on his feet.
20th—Richards loads up and fires from the top of the box, but it's immediately knocked away. Timbers maintain and Kawulok sends one into the box for Richards, who gets a great header on it ... but it's right at Carrillo.
21st—Cal FC nearly put this one away. Aghasyan crosses one in front for a header, but it's just over the bar. On the other end, Richards again gets a look at one in front, but it's just wide left.
24th—Another near miss for Cal FC. Aghasyan fires from a tight angle, but it's just over the bar.
25th—Alhassan has one from distance, but Carrillo is there again. Fans chanting "HOLLYWOOD UNITED." Sextuple-yikes. Lots of old USL chants being thrown out tonight.
26th—Nagbe tries to curl one from the top of the box, but it's wide right.
27th—Timbers will have a corner after a Braun shot is deflected over the line. Jewsbury sends it in and Carrillo attempts to get it in traffic, but it bounds away. Timbers send it back in and Mosquera levels Gonzalez in the box. It'll be a foul and Gonzalez is down.
28th—Timbers Army chanting, "THIS IS BULLSHIT." Septuple-yikes.
29th—Kawulok takes it in front and gets it Alhassan. He fires a low shot, but Carrillo steps in front.
30th—Perkins and Carrillo trade goal kicks. Portland possessing a bit at midfield and send one to Braun, who can't get to it.
One minute of stoppage ... Perkins with a long ball into the box. Randolph holds off Perlaza for a moment, but it's over the line for a Portland corner. ... Jewsbury comes off the pitch for a moment with a massive cut on his face. The blood is visible from the press box. Jewsbury sheds his shirt and gets his head wrapped. ... Corner comes in low and it's knocked out.
FULL TIME: Cal FC wins, 1-0. Wow. Cal FC celebrating on the pitch and there's green smoke wafting from the main capo stand—not celebratory. Cal FC acknowledges TA and fans return the favor with a chant: "BEAT SEATTLE!" Octuple-yikes. This will be an interesting press conference/locker room.
And here it is:
Back from the locker room, and just as you'd expect, it was a very quiet place.
The Timbers, who out-shot Cal FC 37-8(!), made no excuses for what was nothing short of an embarrassing defeat to a
second third fourth fifth-rate opponent. Now, either Cal FC is the most underrated team in American soccer history, or ... the Timbers have some major issues to address.
"Totally unacceptable," said Spencer, who noted he'd never lost to an amateur team as a professional player or coach. "I told the guys in the locker room, we should be very embarrassed."
They were, and it showed. Heads were down, whispers were exchanged and players huddled behind the closed door between the media-accessible locker room and the shower/training area. Keeper Troy Perkins said it was the sort of loss you don't just bounce back from.
"You can't throw it away," Perkins said. "We've certainly got to look at it. I don't know what you do with it. But It's certainly going to sting for a long time. Our fans will never let us forget about this one."
He's right about that: The hardcore members of Timbers Army who made up the 5,000+ in the crowd turned negative on their team, almost mocking them with chants of "CARE LIKE WE DO!", "YOU CALL THIS MLS?" and "THIS IS BULLSHIT!"
Perkins said the players undoubtedly heard it ("They're only 10 feet away from us," he said), but that the fans have every right to let their underachieving heroes have it.
"They have a right to feel that way and they should feel that way," Perkins said. "It's just one of those things where, now we have to earn their respect back."