PORTLAND, Ore. – You can’t erase history.
But a win in the third round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup will certainly be an important part of the Portland Timbers’ redemption story currently being written by a transformed club and ambitious young head coach Caleb Porter.
The Timbers, riding a franchise-record 11-game MLS unbeaten streak, will open their 2013 USOC by playing host to USL Pro side Wilmington Hammerheads at JELD-WEN Field on Wednesday (10:30 pm ET, Live Stream on portlandtimbers.com), unearthing the painful memories of last year’s 1-0 overtime defeat to amateur club Cal FC in Portland’s opening game of last year’s tournament.
“No, we don’t erase anything because I wasn’t here and this is a brand new team,” Porter said after the team’s Tuesday training session at JELD-WEN. “So we don’t really erase anything in the past because the past is irrelevant, and this is a whole new regime.”
The message Porter did send, however, to the media and his players, is that this game is important. He remarked that eight MLS teams lost in the third round of the tournament last year.
Two more lost on Tuesday, during the first nine games of the third round.
“That’s not going to happen on our watch,” Porter said.
But no other MLS team last year lost to an amateur club. In fact, Cal FC’s victory was the first victory by a team from the United States Adult Soccer Association over a MLS club and the beginning of the end of former head coach John Spencer’s reign.
“As I said to the guys today, the measurement of a successful club is their ability to win trophies,” Porter said. “And as much as we’re encouraged by the direction we’re headed, this club hasn’t won any trophies in the MLS era. So this is an opportunity to do just that and win a trophy. “
Porter said the game will be taken seriously and that he will field a lineup of “starting” players. He did qualify the term “starting” players by saying, “I don’t feel like I have 11 starters, I feel like I have 15, 16 starting players.”
Forward Rodney Wallace, who scored a goal in Portland’s 2-0 win Saturday at D.C. United, and newly signed defender Pa Madou Kah, who played a full 90 minutes in that game, participated in a gym session Tuesday rather than training with the team due to minor knocks picked up in D.C.
Attacking midfielder Diego Valeri, who sat out Sunday’s game with a groin strain, went through a full training session.
“It will be starters because we have more than 11 starters on this team, and we’re approaching it to win, simple,” Porter said.
He continued: “My thought is, 'Why be in something unless you’re going to win it?' We’re going to give a full effort to do it.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.