The Portland Timbers Reserves took on USL Pro team VSI Tampa Bay FC at Jeld-Wen Field Sunday in their third reserve match of the season. For anyone who may have forgotten, the reserves' two matches against VSI Tampa Bay (not to be confused with the Tampa Bay Rowdies who play in the NASL) are the result of Major League Soccer's effort to expand the reserve league.
The Timbers reserves claimed a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay, giving them a record of 2-1-0. The Timbers took the lead early in the second half when Sebastian Rincon was knocked to the ground inside the box and Michael Nanchoff easily put away the ensuing penalty kick. The Timbers did not have the lead for long though; Tampa Bay's Mauricio Salles equalized on a point blank header mere minutes later. The Timbers got the last word when Jose Valencia knocked in a cross from Rincon. It was Valencia's second game-winner with the reserves, having also scored late to give them the win over the Seattle Reserves.
It's always interesting to see the reserves play and get a glimpse of what the Timbers' future might look like. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts and observations from the game.
- One can absolutely see the Porterball style at work with the reserves. Unsurprisingly, they don't work that system as well or as dominantly as the first team, but the key elements are there. The reserves strove to maintain possession and they were quick to put pressure on Tampa Bay when they lost the ball. It's hard to overstate how important it is that the whole team, even the players not making the game day 18, is buying in to the system. Should the Timbers need to rely on some of their reserves as a result of injury (or perhaps in some US Open Cup games) those players will understand the expectations placed on them and will, hopefully, have a smoother transition into first team play.
- It's a little concerning that right-footed Ryan Kawulok appears to be our second choice at left back, which is where he lined up on Sunday. (I suppose our second choice at right back might be Rodney Wallace, but that may not be any less concerning.) This is not to say that Ryan Kawulok played poorly with the reserves, but there were certainly moments where he looked like a player out of position.
- Ryan Miller did not play any better on offense against a weaker opponent. His crosses were still bad, he was hesitant in his passing, and he was dispossessed a few times. A couple of his teammates appeared to be getting frustrated with him.
- Jake Gleeson looked more confident than I ever saw him looking with the reserves last year. He definitely played with some swagger. He did concede the one goal, but a save on that header would have been nothing short of heroic.
- The reserves have their fair share of guys who hang on to the ball too long or go for the shot when a teammate has a much better opportunity--Valencia, Rincon, and Nanchoff were all guilty at times. On the other, I had to appreciate the confidence that shows. It will probably be easier to reign them in a little than it would be to draw out a player who is insecure.
- Watching Rincon assist Valencia was a beautiful vision of what our offense could look like in a few years, if we hang on to the pair of them that long. On that play they showed a real understanding on one another and it could be fun to watch them develop a real strike partnership.
- It was a little hard to tell due to the quality of the stream, but Ryan Miller looked to be growing quite the impressive beard.
Did you watch the reserve game Sunday? What stood out to you?