Just two full days after beating FC Dallas at Providence Park in MLS play, the Portland Timbers will square up to a familiar challenge: an early round U.S. Open Cup game at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila against the Seattle Sounders (7:30 pm, streaming at portlandtimbers.com).
It won't be a Timbers-Sounders game like you've ever seen. Both clubs will play primarily USL players and won't, for the most part, sweat the result. But you never know — these Open Cup derbies often get interesting when you least expect it.
The U.S. Open Cup is structured so that clubs play other clubs from their geographic region in the opening rounds, and, because there are very few teams in the Pacific Northwest, the Sounders and Timbers are drawn together almost every year.
It's an extremely flawed system. This is the fifth time that Portland and Seattle will have played in this competition since the Sounders joined MLS in 2009, and the seventh time they will have met since 2005. The last four meetings have taken place in Washington.
Seattle has had all kinds of success in this competition since making the jump to MLS, winning it four times and consistently beating the Timbers in the process. That changed, though, in 2015 — when the Sounders finished an all-time classic with seven players on the field as Portland knocked them out 3-1 in extra time.
Seattle plays all of its Open Cup games at Starfire Stadium: a tiny 4,500 seat arena that currently hosts the club's USL affiliate and is most notable for its small dimensions and punishing playing surface — which Nat Borchers described on Saturday's Timbers broadcast as "concrete with confetti sprinkled on top of it."
The Timbers have just about thrown in the towel on this game. That's not that they don't want to win, but on the road, against another MLS team, in the middle of a congested stretch of the MLS schedule, they're willing to lose. They have bigger priorities.
No Timbers players who started Saturday's game against Dallas figure to be in the lineup tonight. Alvas Powell and David Guzman are out on national team duty, while Darlington Nagbe played on Sunday night for the US against Mexico and won't be available. Chance Myers, Jack Barmby, Roy Miller, Liam Ridgewell, and Darren Mattocks are all out injured.
Of the regular first-teamers, we should see Jeff Attinella in goal, Marco Farfan at left back, possibly Amobi Okugo in central defense, and possibly Ben Zemanski in central midfield. Jeremy Ebobisse and Victor Arboleda are in line for full debuts with the first team. All the other starters will likely come from T2.
Seattle is in a similar boat. They didn't play over the weekend, but are down a number of internationals and are looking forward to three MLS games in an eight day stretch beginning Saturday. They too will play a team of mostly USL players.
Caleb Porter said Monday that this "will look like a T2 vs. S2 game," which does have its upsides. One is that both teams will mostly start players who have some familiarity from the USL level — not that any game at Starfire will be particularly well played. At a minimum, however, it should be a worthwhile developmental experience.
One last lineup note: Clint Dempsey, not that he would have played anyway, is still suspended for ripping up the referee's notebook in 2015.
1 - Attinella
32 - Farfan
47 - Clarke
18 - Okugo
75 - Jimenez
14 - Zemanski
77 - Lewis
19 - Arboleda
25 - Brett
80 - Williams
17 - Ebobisse
These games usually get wacky, no matter who is on the field, and it's anyone's guess who will prevail tonight. I'll say 2-1 Sounders in extra time.