Hall of Fame baseball manager Leo Durocher once said: 'You don't save your pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain.'
There are no rainouts in soccer, however, and Portland Timbers coach John Spencer took full advantage in the U.S. Open Cup qualifier match Tuesday night at Jeld-Wen Field against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Spencer used 10 reserve players in the 1-0 overtime loss so he could rest the regular starters for Friday's match against the MLS Philadelphia Union.
Spencer bristled when asked how he would feel if the gamble does not pay off.
'What if we do (win)?' he asked. 'It's hypothetical right now, so we'll probably wait to answer that question on Friday after the game.'
• Goalkeeper Troy Perkins was the one starter from last week's game against Real Salt Lake to open the San Jose game.
Jake Gleeson, who filled in when Perkins was out at the beginning of the year with a knee injury, was on the active roster Tuesday. Gleeson was on the injury report (elbow) for the match against Real Salt Lake.
Spencer said the decision to start Perkins against San Jose was to get the goalkeeper more work.
'Troy Perkins is the number one goalkeeper of the club, and he's missed a lot of football in the last few weeks,' Spencer said. 'So it's important to get him as many minutes as he possibly can so that he's at the top of his game.'
Spencer went on to praise the way Gleeson has played, though.
'Jake Gleeson has done tremendously well for a young goalkeeper,' Spencer said. 'He came in and handled a few good games, where you would say maybe a lack of experience would play against him, and he played well. He's definitely one that we'll have here for a number of years to come.'
•• How much importance Spencer put on winning the Open Cup qualifier might be up for question, but despite starting 10 reserves, the coach insisted he was not conceding the match.
'No, not at all,' Spencer said. 'I put a team out there just like Salt Lake did over the weekend against us. We put a team out there that we felt could win the game. I wouldn't say there was a massive difference in the two teams (Portland and San Jose) quality-wise.
'Maybe you've seen it differently from where you were sitting. But there wasn't one minute in the game where I was saying to the staff, 'God, we could be in trouble here.' So that bodes well to the future that we've got a good squad of guys that can step in and play at any given time.'
••• A bright spot in Tuesday's match for the Timbers was midfielder Rodrigo Lopez's services. Fans of the 2010 Division-2 Timbers may remember Lopez as a master of the dead ball. Against the Earthquakes, he proved he has not lost his touch.
'That's one of my fortes - dead balls,' Lopez said. 'Coach has a lot of confidence in me hitting the ball. I just try to hit a good ball in and give the team a chance to make something out of it.
Lopez's free kick in the eighth minute gave the Timbers their best scoring opportunity. After Lopez delivered the ball into the box from 30 yards, Kevin Goldthwaite knocked a header into Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Weber, and Portland's Spencer Thompson was just a split-second tardy in getting to the rebound.
Lopez had other strikes that could have resulted in goals, as well.
'Unlucky,' was how Lopez summed up the missed opportunities. 'You're not always going to score on a dead ball. But our big guys are always there fighting for it, trying to get a ball in the net.'
•••• One of the positives of the Timbers playing 10 reserves was that it gave those players an opportunity to make a case for themselves to receive more playing time.
'Anytime you step foot on the field you want to impress the coaches,' said midfielder Ryan Pore, who lost his starting job after the first few matches of the season. 'First and foremost, you want to be in the starting 11 each week. So, anytime you're in the first 11 you want to remain there as a player and put in a good performance.'
••••• One of the players fighting for extra playing time is midfielder Sal Zizzo.
Zizzo - who has a history of injury - has been sidelined much of this season with a banged-up shoulder. He has come onto the pitch late in matches recently, but Tuesday night was his first opportunity in several weeks to play extended minutes.
'I felt good,' Zizzo said. 'It's not easy to play a 120-minute game. Up until 90 minutes, I felt fit and I felt well. I felt comfortable defensively, and I felt good to go forward.'
Zizzo did have to leave the match in the 111th minute, though, because of leg cramps. But he said the cramps had nothing to do with his fitness.
'I've always been a cramper,' Zizzo said. 'I was kind of playing through them at one point. It came to a point where it could've been an injury. So it wasn't necessarily something I should've pushed through.'
•••••• Zizzo will have his work cut out for him as he tries to work his way into the starting lineup.
The Timbers' midfield is filled with players who seem unlikely to see much bench time. Jack Jewsbury is the team captain. Diego Chara is a designated player. Darlington Nagbe was the No. 2 SuperDraft pick.
Zizzo said he is not worried about the titles of the midfielders he is fighting for playing time.
'You can tag a lot of players and what they are,' Zizzo said. 'It's good for them. But the coach gives a fair opportunity to everybody. And if you're playing well, you're playing well and he's going to play you for that. You come to training everyday and if you do well, he'll play you. That's what's important.'