PORTLAND, Ore. – Sports is no stranger to its underdog stories, and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is a competition that delivers its fair share. On Tuesday, May 13, the Portland Timbers U-23s, an amateur development team for the Timbers who competes in United Soccer Leagues’ Premier Development League, embark on their journey in the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. The Timbers U-23s begin cup play against professional club Arizona United SC of USL PRO in the second round of the tournament at Providence Park; kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The U.S. Open Cup is an annual knockout tournament that has been contested since 1914 and features teams from across the United States ranging from competitive adult leagues up through the top tier in Major League Soccer. And as one of the top regular-season finishers in the PDL – U.S. Soccer’s fourth tier – in 2013, the Timbers U-23s have qualified for a third straight U.S. Open Cup tournament in 2014.
“I take a lot of pride in that,” said Timbers U-23s head coach Jim Rilatt of the team’s participation in the tournament over the last three years. “I appreciate the effort the players put in and how quickly they buy into our organization – how we want to play, the demands we put on the players. Hopefully this group is the same. I think we’ve assembled a group of really talented players.”
In 2013, Rilatt led the Timbers U-23s to a second-place finish in the PDL’s Northwest Division during the regular season and on a postseason run to the Western Conference finals. To qualify for and compete in the prestigious tournament is a welcome challenge for Rilatt and his teams.
“It is very exciting,” said Rilatt. “It will be exciting for the kids. We’ll be prepared and we’ll be competitive.”
Unlike the 2012 and 2013 tournaments, the Timbers U-23s enter the 2014 U.S. Open Cup up against a pro side in Arizona United SC. In 2013, the Timbers U-23s advanced to the second round and put up a fight against the USL PRO’s Charleston Battery. Rilatt expects the same mentality from his Timbers U-23s side again on Tuesday.
“It would be nice to get a win against a pro team,” said Rilatt. “When you think about us and the odds of getting a result, it will be difficult, but we’ll make a game of it. That’s the fun part.”
For the Timbers U-23s, Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match kicks off the 2014 campaign and a busy opening week. Following the cup game against Arizona, the team opens its regular-season schedule Thursday, May 15, against Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 on a Providence Health & Fitness Day at Providence Park followed by an away match Saturday, May 17, against the Puget Sound Gunners.