Timbers U-23s eager to take on PSA Elite in U.S. Open Cup
PORTLAND, Ore. – For the past three years, the Timbers U-23s have attempted to earn a spot in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, only to come away empty handed.
On Tuesday, the team will finally get their chance to play in the nation’s longest-running soccer tournament when they play host to Irvine, Calif.-based club PSA Elite of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association (USASA) at 7:30 p.m. at JELD-WEN Field (Gates open at 5:15pm for special MLS Timbers Viewing Party against Houston).
The Timbers U-23s have come close to qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup twice in the past two years were it not for a series of tiebreakers that set them back. In 2011, the Timbers U-23s were edged out in a winner-takes-all league match that doubled as a U.S. Open Cup tiebreaker against rival the Kitsap Pumas; the two teams finished qualification deadlocked through all three league tiebreakers (total wins, goal differential and total goals).
WATCH: Timbers U-23s ready for PSA Elite
“We were so close for two or three years, and to finally get into it and to have our chance is a great moment,” said Timbers U-23s midfielder Steven Evans (above), who has been a member of the Timbers U-23s since their inaugural PDL season in 2009.
U.S. Soccer made sweeping changes to the format for 99th edition of the U.S. Open Cup in 2012, expanding the tournament field to 64 teams. As a result, the Timbers U-23s earned their first qualification into the competition, finishing with the second-best record of U.S.-based teams in the PDL’s Northwest Division in 2011.
For the 2012 Timbers U-23s squad, the team is excited to have the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the United States in the knockout-format U.S. Open Cup.
“I played in [the U.S. Open Cup] last summer for a team called Chattanooga FC back home in Tennessee,” said first-year forward Mark Sherrod. “I’m glad to get another shot at it. It’s the biggest tournament in the country.”
Head coach Jim Rilatt has coached the Timbers U-23s since the team’s first season in 2009 and recognizes the long-term impact that success in the U.S. Open Cup can have for the young players on the Timbers U-23s roster, almost all of whom are still in college.
“I think it’s exciting,” Rilatt said. “I’m hoping that we have a good game Tuesday night so that the kids that are out here, putting themselves through this, giving up their summers, sacrificing to have to get here, going through the grind, have these types of moments on the field.”
Evans also understands the importance of competing in the historic U.S. Open Cup. He hopes that competing on the big stage of the U.S. Open Cup can propel the Timbers U-23s to a big win.
“I think we’re all very excited. A little nervous, but good nerves. We’re all really excited to have a chance to hopefully go far in a tournament that we want to go far in.”
The outcome of Tuesday’s match will determine who faces the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League in the second round on May 22 in Cary, N.C., with the chance to play against a Major League Soccer club in the third round on the line.
ABOUT U.S. OPEN CUP
The U.S. Open Cup is a single-elimination tournament, which has crowned a champion for 98 consecutive years beginning in 1914. Every winning team’s name is engraved on the base of the Dewar Challenge Trophy, which dates to the first year of the tournament and currently resides at the U.S. Soccer House in Chicago. The 2012 champion will earn a $100,000 cash prize, while the runner-up will collect $50,000. The top Division II, Division III and amateur clubs will each receive a $10,000 prize. For more information, visit www.ussoccer.com.