Matchday Preview: Portland Timbers face Real Salt Lake in 2013 U.S. Open Cup semifinal

Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers
Semifinal of 2013 U.S. Open Cup
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. (Pacific)
Location: Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah)
Forecast: 93 degrees, partly cloudy
English Radio: 750 The Game (KXTG 750AM)

Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal match marks the first meeting between the Timbers and Real Salt Lake this season. The match will be one of three games between the two sides during the month of August with two regular-season games still on the schedule (Aug. 21 and 30). Portland enters the game coming off a 1-1 draw against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Aug. 3 at JELD-WEN Field. In U.S. Open Cup play, the Timbers reached the semifinals through a 3-2 win over FC Dallas on June 26 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Both the Timbers and Real Salt Lake are making their first appearances in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals with RSL previously making it to the quarterfinals in 2011. In league play, Real Salt Lake is winless in three straight games, losing two of their last three games after stringing together an eight-game unbeaten streak from May 19 to July 13. Real Salt Lake is 6-2-3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, while building a six-game undefeated streak at home from May 4 to July 3.

Timbers U.S. Open Cup Recap
The Timbers earned a spot in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals for the first time in club history following a dramatic 3-2 win over FC Dallas on June
26 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. After conceding the opening goal to FC Dallas in the 15th minute, Portland’s Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri tallied back-to-back goals just two minutes apart in the second half before forward Frederic Piquionne added a third goal for the Timbers in the 72nd minute. Nagbe became Portland’s second U.S. Open Cup Player of the Round honoree for his performance against FC Dallas. Previously, Piquionne was named Player of the Round in the Third Round after scoring four goals in 45 minutes in a 5-1 win over the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL PRO) on May 29 at JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers followed that win up with a 2-0 shutout over the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) on June 12 as midfielder Michael Nanchoff and Jack Jewsbury scored on either side of halftime at JELD-WEN Field.

Scouting Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake enters Wednesday’s match in first place in the Western Conference with 38 points through 23 games. Head coach Jason Kreis’s squad is tied for the lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings with the New York Red Bulls.

Led by Costa Rican forward Álvaro Saborío’s eight goals, Real Salt Lake has received major contributions from midfielder Javier Morales (5g, 7a), midfielder Ned Grabavoy (5g, 2a) and Colombian forward Olmes Garcia (5g, 3a) this season. Defensively, goalkeeper Nick Rimando leads MLS with a 0.89 goals-against average and a 78.4 saves percentage. The United States international has earned six shutouts this season.

Real Salt Lake leads the league with 15 goals scored in the final 15 minutes of games this season and ranks No. 1 overall with 38 goals in 23 games.

Timbers/RSL Winner to Host Final
The winner of the semifinal match between the Timbers and Real Salt Lake will host the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. The location of the championship match was decided after a coin flip at the headquarters of the U.S. Soccer Federation in Chicago. If Portland defeats Salt Lake in its semifinal match on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the Open Cup Final will be played on Sept. 24, at JELD-WEN Field.

About the U.S. Open Cup
The oldest continuous soccer competition in the United States, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is open to all U.S. Soccer affiliated teams, from amateur to professional levels, and has been contested each year since it was first held in 1913-14.

The 2013 U.S. Open Cup, the 100th edition of the tournament, began with a 68-team field, the largest in the modern era (1995 to present), on May 7, with four amateur teams competing in a play-in round. The tournament kicked off in full swing on May 14-15 with 36 amateur teams squaring off in the first round. In the U.S. Open Cup, all Division I (MLS), II (NASL) and III (USL PRO) professional clubs, totaling 32 clubs, are participating in the tournament proper.

In 2012, Sporting Kansas City won its second-ever U.S. Open Cup trophy with a 3-2 penalty kick win (1-1 draw in regulation) against Seattle Sounders FC, stopping Sounders FC from winning a fourth straight title.

Every winning team earns a monetary prize, entry into CONCACAF Champions League and gets its name engraved on the base of the Dewar Challenge Trophy, which dates to the first year of the tournament and resides at U.S. Soccer House in Chicago.

Open Cup Semifinal on ROOT SPORTS
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium will be televised live on ROOT SPORTS; kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. (Pacific). The shared telecast will feature the broadcast team of Christian Miles (play-by-play) and Brian Dunseth (analyst).

Portland to Host 2014 All-Star Game
Major League Soccer announced on July 10 that Portland will be the host city for the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game. The annual showcase event will feature several days of festivities, culminating in a match between the League’s top players and a renowned international club in late July or early August, 2014, at JELD-WEN Field. A public on-sale date for tickets will be announced at a later date. The opponent for next summer’s game will be announced at a later date.

Balanced Offense
The Timbers are one of two teams in MLS that features five players that have recorded four or more goals this season. For Portland, forward Ryan Johnson (7), midfielder Will Johnson (6), midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe (6), midfielder Rodney Wallace (4) and midfielder Diego Valeri (4) have set the pace for the Timbers. The only other team with as balanced scoring is league-leader Real Salt Lake.

Record-Setting Valeri
Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri equaled the Timbers MLS record for most assists in a single season on Aug. 4 in a 1-1 draw against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Valeri, who is in his first season with Portland and ranks second in MLS with eight assists, has appeared in 20 games this season. The Argentinian playmaker leads the Timbers with 19 points (5 goals, 8 assists) across all competitions this season.

Second-Half Threat
Portland has scored 23 goals in the second half of games this season, including a league-best 10 goals during the first 15 minutes following the halftime break. Portland’s 23 second-half goals are two shy of the league lead. On the defensive side, the Timbers have conceded 10 goals in the final 45 minutes this season, which ranks second behind Seattle Sounders FC (9 goals) as one of the league’s best second-half defenses.

Seeing Out the Half, and Game
The Timbers are the only MLS club that has not conceded a goal in the 15-minute interval leading into halftime. Closing out matches this season, Portland is tied for second in the league for the fewest number of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes of matches. Portland, along with Houston, has allowed three goals in the final 15-minute interval of games this season. Only Seattle Sounders FC has conceded fewer goals (2) at the end of games. Through 22 games, the Timbers have conceded the second-fewest goals in MLS this season (21), one behind the New England Revolution, who have conceded 20 goals in 22 games.

On a Roll at JELD-WEN Field
The Timbers recorded an MLS-club record streak of six straight shutouts at JELD-WEN Field from April 6-June 23. Portland’s home shutout streak came
to an end against the LA Galaxy on July 13, setting the MLS club-home record of 587 minutes without conceding a goal at JELD-WEN Field, spanning eight league games from March 9-July 13. Portland is unbeaten in its last eight matches (6-0-2) at JELD-WEN Field. The team’s extended its home unbeaten streak with a 1-1 draw against Cascadia-rival Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Aug. 4.

Timbers Draw 1-1 With Vancouver
Forward Ryan Johnson scored in the second half as the Timbers played Vancouver Whitecaps FC to a 1-1 draw in a hard-fought, Cascadia Cup match before a sellout crowd of 20,674 at JELD-WEN Field on Aug. 4. Portland is unbeaten in its last eight matches at JELD-WEN Field. Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri recorded his eighth assist of the season on Johnson’s goal in the 49th minute, matching a Timbers MLS record for assists in a single season. It was a physical match between the Cascadia rivals from the onset, with three cautions issued in the opening 17 minutes of play. The two clubs exchanged goals in the second half. Johnson staked the Timbers to a 1-0 lead four minutes into the second half.

On a corner kick 20 minutes later, Whitecaps FC equalized on a Jordan Harvey header.

Iron Men
Timbers midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe has started a Timbers MLS-club record with 36 straight starts for the team dating back to the 2012 MLS season. In fact, Nagbe has played in 55 of the team’s 56 regular-season games since the start of the 2012 season. Defender Jack Jewsbury has appeared in 51 of the team’s last 56 games and midfielder Diego Chara has seen time in 48 (all starts).

Remarkable Ricketts
Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts set a Timbers MLS record with four straight shutouts from May 18-25; June 15-23. The Jamaican also has logged the third and fourth longest streaks without conceding a goal this season (401 minutes from May 18-July 7; 396 minutes from March 30-April 21). Ricketts missed the Timbers’ June 8 match at Chicago while on international duty. He has earned MLS Save of the Week honors eight times while recording nine shutouts.

Back-To-Back Losses
The Timbers are one of three teams in MLS that has not lost consecutive matches this season. In fact, Portland is the only team that has not lost two straight games in a full calendar year. Portland last suffered consecutive losses July 21-29, 2012.

Keep the Ball
The Timbers have maintained the majority of possession in 18 of the team’s 22 games this season. Portland kicked off the season with seven straight games in which they possessed the ball more than their opponents.

Assists in Bunches
Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri is two assists shy of the league lead, but the Argentine playmaker leads the league in multi-assist games (3). Valeri is the only player in MLS this season to record two assists in three different games – achieving the feat on July 13 against the LA Galaxy, May 12 versus Chivas USA and April 27 at Sporting KC – all three victories.