Three games to CCL: Fernandez, Blanco lead Timbers' mission to win Open Cup

PORTLAND, Ore. – Make no mistake, the magic of the U.S. Open Cup has captivated the Portland Timbers.

After dispatching their Cascadian rivals the Seattle Sounders in their USOC opener last week, the Timbers kicked off a stretch of four games in 12 days by utilizing a mostly first-choice lineup to dispatch the LA Galaxy4-0 Wednesday night and advance to the Open Cup quarterfinals.

“The cup is important,” said Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco. “We win three more games and we’re playing in Concacaf Champions League. It’s a trophy and so it’s important for the club and for everybody.”

Timbers manager Giovanni Savarese made six changes from last week’s win over the Sounders, giving players like Claude Dielna and Tomas Conechny a chance to make a case for a spot in the rotation.

“Dielna had a great match today and he showed the reason why we brought him in. He held the ball and made sure we kept the score at zero,” said Savarese. “He’s always been a professional and this was his opportunity to come in and enjoy playing.”

Conechny, making his first start of the season, impressed the skipper as well.

“He’s been growing and this was his chance to step on the field and play. We decided to give him the opportunity to start today and he played very well, said Savarese. “He did many good things and he had an opportunity that would have been great for him to finish, because he deserved it because of the work he put in during the match.”

The main story for the Timbers continues to be the emergence of Brian Fernandez, who continued his blistering start to his Portland career, setting up an own goal from Galaxy midfielder Perry Kitchen before adding one of his own, falling down as he tapped home the rebound after Jeremy Ebobisse’s chip of LA goalkeeper Matt Lampson. The whole play was set up by a perfect long ball into the box from Blanco, with whom Fernandez is quickly forming quite the partnership.

“When good players get together, they’re capable of matching up very quickly, said Savarese. “We need to continue to work and progress, but when good players find each other, they can be dangerous.”

Added Blanco of Fernandez: “He’s crazy. We need him because we create too many chances and we need a forward player to score. He’s like a horse and he wants more every time. We need this spirit and his temperament.”