Timbers Notebook: Keita leads Salgaocar in cup play

PORTLAND, Ore. – Well, it is not exactly a break for the holidays for forward Mandjou Keita. As people prepare for the Christmas holiday, the Guinean striker is back to work, helping Salgaocar Sport Club kickoff India’s 31st Federation Cup tournament.

On loan for 2009-10 season, Keita scored the game-winning goal for Salgaocar Tuesday, resulting in a 1-0 victory over JCT in the club’s first game of Federation Cup group play. It was his first goal as a member of the Indian side.

A sight often seen by Timbers fans during the 2009 campaign, Keita, who scored 11 goals for the Timbers last season, headed in the decisive goal in the 14th minute and, according to match reports, was dangerous around the goal throughout Salgaocar’s opening match of the tournament.

The Federation Cup is a 16-team tournament which welcomes in the second half of the regular season for India’s first division called the I-League. Unlike the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the Timbers, which is played in conjunction with the league schedule, the Federation Cup is featured at the tail end of an extended break during the heart of the I-League season.

Salgaocar plays two more games as part of the group stage, facing East Bengal Club Thursday on Christmas Eve and then finishes against Viva Kerala over the weekend.

The winner from each of the four groups will advance to the semifinal round played Dec. 30-31. A Federation Cup champion will be crowned on Jan. 3, 2010, as I-League play resumes that same weekend.

Keita, who was the USL First Division’s scoring champion in 2009, joined Salgaocar on Nov. 11, on loan. He featured in his team debut roughly four weeks ago on Nov. 14, which was the club’s last regular-season fixture prior to the break.

Salgaocar currently sits in 10th place in the I-League table with a record of 1-2-4 (7pts). It resumes its I-League schedule on Jan. 4 against Pune FC.

In addition to Keita, the Timbers have another connection to India’s Salgaocar. Midfielder Avneet Shergill, who played for the Timbers’ development team, the Timbers U-23s, last season, was signed by Salgoacar in advance of the 2009-10 season. Shergill started along side Keita in the club’s tournament opener against JCT.

The two look to maintain Salgaocar’s early lead in Group A, and add a Federation Cup title to their list of accomplishments this season.

Learn more about the I-League and Federation Cup at www.indianfootball.com.