The San Jose Earthquakes set off again with the aim of a first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final appearance, hoping this year to avoid stumbling over A-League competition from the Pacific Northwest. A year ago, the Seattle Sounders sent the Quakes packing in the fourth round - but this year, the Sounders were defeated by Portland Timbers in A-League qualifying. That meant a first-ever trip to the Open Cup competition proper for the Timbers, in their fourth year of existence after resurrecting a club that was one of the bright lights of the North American Soccer League.
OPEN CUP HISTORY: This is the first appearance for the Timbers in the competition proper since the club joined the A-League as an expansion franchise in 2001.
2004 OPEN CUP: The Timbers survived their first-ever Open Cup hurdle when they defeated the PSL (third division) Utah Blitzz 2-1 on June 30 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, scoring twice within nine minutes in the first half then holding on for the victory (Fadi Afash 65 - Byron Alvarez 32; Alex Bengard 41). ... Here's the lineup put out by Timbers boss Bobby Howe: Josh Saunders - Lee Morrison, Gavin Wilkinson, Aaron Heinzen, Brian Winters - Scott Benedetti, Alex Bengard, Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar, Jake Sagare - Alan Gordon (Dan Antoniuk), Byron Alvarez (Andrew Gregor). ... The Timbers reached the actual competition when they defeated arch-rival Seattle Sounders in both legs of their home-and-home qualifying series in May. Portland won 2-1 at PGE Park on May 1 (Alan Gordon 1, Byron Alvarez 71 - Kyle Smith 75), then 1-0 on May 15 at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle (Jake Sagare 52).
2004 A-LEAGUE: The Timbers are second in the Western Conference of the A-League with 27 points from 14 matches, tied with the Minnesota Thunder two points behind the Vancouver Whitecaps. ... In their last league match, the Timbers hammered Edmonton Aviators 6-1 at PGE Park (Alan Gordon 11, 49, 60; Byron Alvarez 72, 88; Dan Antoniuk 77 - Sean Fraser 17) ... Alan Gordon leads the A-League scoring race with 29 points from 14 matches, with a league-leading 14 goals and one assist ... Byron Alvarez has contributed eight goals, three assists, while the first-choice 'keeper Josh Saunders (ex-San Jose Earthquakes) has three clean sheets on the season. ... The Timbers have more ex-MLSers in Andrew Gregor (ex-Columbus Crew), Scott Beneditti (ex-Colorado Rapids), while Gavin Wilkinson is a New Zealand international.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
The San Jose Earthquakes once again embark on their U.S. Open Cup campaign aiming to progress past the quarterfinal stage - which they haven't done in six tries. ... After reaching the quarterfinals five consecutive years - and getting dumped out each time - the Earthquakes failed at the first hurdle a year ago when they were stunned 1-0 by the Seattle Sounders at Seahawks Stadium in the fourth round (Kyle Smith 41). ... Each of the three previous seasons, the Quakes fell to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the quarterfinals, losing 2-0 in Fullerton in 2000, on penalties at home in 2001 after a 1-1 draw, then 1-0 in 2002. They also lost on penalties to the Chicago Fire in 1998, and to the D3 San Francisco Bay Seals in 1997. ... That was the second time San Jose has lost to lower-division competition in the Open Cup. Five times they've met A-League competition, winning each of the matches before the loss to Seattle last season. The previous season the Quakes had defeated the Sounders in the third round, while they also defeated Milwaukee Rampage (2001, on penalties), Richmond Kickers (2000) and El Paso Patriots (1998).
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