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Behind Enemy Lines: Three Questions with Stumptown Footy

We talked with Michael A. Orr from Stumptown Footy in a special, US Open Cup edition of Behind Enemy Lines.


1) How do you expect Caleb Porter to balance the lineups between Tuesday's Open Cup match and Friday's MLS match?

The Timbers are actually quite deep at the moment, really for the first time this season. Center back continues to be an issue but everywhere else there are multiple options at Porter's disposal. The likeliest scenario, especially with Portland still chasing points to get back into playoff contention, is that the line-up for Tuesday's Open Cup match will include the likes of Kalif Alhassan, Gaston Fernandez and Rodney Wallace in midfield. Not necessarily the top line starters but more than adequate replacements. That would leave Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri and Steve Zakuani to group together with Porter able to choose between Maximiliano Urruti and Fanendo Adi for each game. The attacking thrust will be the same regardless of who plays but the specific pieces give the Timbers different strengths for each game. There is a bit less maneuverability among defensive players but if Porter aligns his team the way he did against Orlando City's U23s in the Fourth Round Jack Jewsbury could play a holding midfield role with Michael Harrington and Alvas Powell at outside back. That seems more likely than seeing the usual Will Johnson / Diego Chara pairing before Friday's league game.

2) With Portland also dealing with Champions League matches later this season, where does the Open Cup fall on the Timber's priorities?

Portland is desperate for a trophy of any kind. However, too many more games added into the already crowded fixture list would probably not be too welcome. As mentioned, there is quite a bit of depth, particularly in attacking positions, so there are plenty of options for Porter but four more games starting in August, including long trips to Honduras and Guyana, will probably take priority. If the Timbers can easily get through this Fifth Round game and host a quarterfinal, it may be far enough along in the Open Cup where winning it could be a realistic possibility, but at some point Porter is going to have to make that call and ease back. However, easing back is not really in Porter's nature and given the club's dearth of trophies, it's unlikely they'll take give up before Tuesday night's game.

3) The Timbers started to gain some of their momentum back before the World Cup break, winning four out of their last five matches. Will this carry over into this week or will the World Cup break hinder the momentum?

As one of the few teams in the league utterly unaffected absences of any kind during this break, Portland probably didn't really want to have zero league games for two weeks. Rodney Wallace's return, Adi's permanent signing (at least as alluded to by Merritt Paulson) and Ridgewell's eventual inclusion provide good news, added depth and some peace of mind. But the key has been the revived attack, despite continued defensive problems. Including the Open Cup game last week, the Timbers have scored at least twice in seven straight games and three goals in four of those seven. While a bit of rest will be appreciated by the more regular starters, it does not seem to have slowed down the attacking verve that has defined the past two months. The defense may not be good enough to make this team a legitimate contender but right now the offensive output (only Seattle Sounders have scored more league goals) should give Portland a great chance in Kansas on Tuesday night.