NICK LEYDEN - Thursday, October 14, 2010
Estoril will host Lisbon giants Sporting in a cup match on Saturday, with Tony Taylor the only Yank likely to feature for the home team.
It will be their stiffest test of the season for Os Canarinhos at Estádio António Coimbra da Mota in a third round Taça de Portugal match.
Estoril is undefeated at home so far this season, but there is little question that a game against the 18 time Portuguese champions will pose a new kind of challenge.
Of the three Americans on the Estoril roster only Taylor will like his chances of making an appearance, as he has been the only one to consistently crack coach Vinícius Eutrópio's lineup.
The Jacksonville native has appeared in five of seven games to this point, mostly as a substitute, but his two goals make him the team's second leading scorer behind former Miami FC striker Alex Afonso.
Greg Garza, who recently moved to Estoril from Sporting's academy team, faces an uphill battle to break into the miserly backline, while Bryan Arguez has not been able to reappear since the first game of the season.
Sporting coach Paulo Sérgio might field an unfamiliar lineup if he opts to rest most of his regulars against the second division club, especially those who were away on international duty for the Euro 2012 qualifiers last weekend.
Even so, Estoril will not be able to lose focus as Sporting's roster is still deeper and more talented than any outside of Benfica and Porto, despite currently floundering in a disappointing tenth place.
Estoril management has taken the unusual step of organizing off site training all week to ensure the field is in top condition for Saturday's game, which will potentially be their only nationally televised outing all year.
They are also expecting a far larger crowd than the customary triple digits, as the lure of watching one of the "Big Three" will draw casual fans as well as the Sporting supporters from Lisbon, which is a mere 15 miles away.
Sporting have won the Portuguese Cup 15 times, while Estoril's has appeared in only one final, losing in 1943.