The Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy met for the first time in the Round of 16 of the 2016 US Open Cup.
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The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Round of 16 kicks off tonight with the Portland Timbers hosting MLS opponent the Los Angeles Galaxy at Providence Park.
This is just the fifth time in the Modern Era (1995-present) that a Major League Soccer team has played in a US Open Cup game on a Friday. The last one came in 1999 when the Colorado Rapids edged the Tampa Bay Mutiny 1-0 in a Quarterfinal match that doubled as a MLS regular season game. The 1998 US Open Cup Final between the Chicago Fire and the Columbus Crew took place on a Friday.
The Timbers are looking to extend a nine-game unbeaten streak across all competitions that reaches back into early April and includes a 1-1 draw against the Galaxy on June 2. That streak also includes the team’s 2-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup. In that match, Portland looked to Diego Chara for leadership of a starting XI populated by both first team starters as well as call-ups from the club’s USL franchise, T2. With the World Cup break, Portland supporters can expect to see more first-teamers in the line up.
Speaking of first-teamers, the Timber’s offense is led by Diego Valeri (6 goals) and Sebastian Blanco (5 goals), who have accounted for 11 of the team’s 20 goals in league play.
The Galaxy have had their own struggles this year despite winning their MLS home opener against the Timbers 2-1 in early March. They suffered a stretch during the season when they lost five of six matches. However, they have done well lately, earning three wins and that draw with Portland in their last five matches (3-1-1). This has moved them the table into their current position of eighth place in the Western Conference and back within striking distance of a playoff spot.
The Galaxy will likely feature more first team players with the World Cup giving players a break, but Los Angeles will be without superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their leading scorer (7 goals in 11 matches). Ibrahimovic was in Moscow Thursday for the start of the FIFA World Cup to promote a new Visa product.
Portland Timbers FC (MLS)
14th US Open Cup appearance (7th as MLS)
Overall: 15-12-1 (0-1 PK) | 8-6-0 as MLS
Home: 7-6-1 (0-1 PK) | 5-2-0 as MLS
vs. MLS teams: 5-8-1 (0-1 PK) | 5-5-0 as MLS
Best finish: 2013 Semifinals (Lost 2-1 at Real Salt Lake of MLS)
Over the years, the Timbers have struggled against Southern California teams in US Open Cup, famously falling to a pair of SoCal amateur sides: Hollywood United in 2008 and Eric Wynalda’s Cal FC squad in 2012. Most recently, in 2016, they lost 1-0 to the Galaxy in the Round of 16 on a first half goal by Raul Mendiola. The Timbers have an Open Cup history that dates back to their USL days when they made their tournament debut in 2004. They never advanced beyond the Fourth Round as a USL team, and their best finish as a MLS franchise came in 2013 when they lost 2-1 to Real Salt Lake in the Semifinals.
Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)
18th US Open Cup appearance
Overall: 31-15-1 (1-0 PK)
Away: 9-12-1 (1-0 PK)
vs. MLS teams: 12-11-1 (1-0 PK)
Best finish: 2001, 2005 champions
After winning the club’s second US Open Cup title in 2005, the Galaxy returned to the Final the following year. They lost to the Chicago Fire 3-1 and that began a dark period for the Galaxy in the tournament, which some could argue was a shift in priorities as David Beckham arrived in 2007. From that point on, the Galaxy were eliminated by the Richmond Kickers (USL Second Division) in 2007, failed to qualify in 2008 and 2009, lost their second game to the Sounders in back-to-back years (2010, 2011), then lost three years in a row to the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks on the road (2012-14). Since 2015, the draw has been more kind to the Galaxy as the federation has put a greater emphasis on minimizing travel (i.e. no more trips to the East Coast). The Galaxy have reached the Quarterfinals in each of the last three years, including a run to the Semifinals in 2016 where they lost eventual champions FC Dallas in extra time. Los Angeles is tied with D.C. United with 12 US Soccer Majors, which is the most in the Modern Era. Is this the year they can snap their 13-year US Open Cup trophy drought and break that tie with United?