The Portland Timbers U-23s after three days of practice together, took on USL PRO side Arizona United last night and managed to build a 2-0 lead before running out of gas in the second half and losing 3-2 thanks to a goal in the final seconds of stoppage time.
The U-23s went toe to toe with Arizona in the first half, controlling possession for long stretches and getting more than their fair share of opportunities. The group is clearly talented and comprised of players ready to play in the system that Jim Rilatt is implementing with the team, but that was not enough to win out over a group of professionals who are in mid season form.
The U-23s struck twice in the first half and both times the goal came off of a well-taken free kick.
The first was delivered by Timbers Academy player Jesse Garcia-Aguilar, who sent a long ball into the Arizona box that found the head of defender Kyle Fisher, who redirected it around the Arizona keeper and into the goal.
The second was a more direct effort and left back David Rose sent an in-swinging ball into the box that bounced through traffic and into the back of the net.
The U-23s Players
Jeremiah Braeback shares his thoughts on three of the Timbers' top performers:
Kyle Fisher’s play stood out to me the most. Not only did he score the first goal, but he was organizing the defense and shut down several attacks against the speedy Kadeem Dacres.
Justin Luthy was calm between the posts and showed no fear when having to make some difficult saves, but unfortunately he couldn’t do everything, especially as his teammates were gassed in the last 10 minutes and let in 3 goals in the last 10 minutes.
Kharlton Belmar looked dangerous throughout, forcing the Arizona United defense to constantly mark him. While he didn’t score, his play gave the U23s plenty of opportunities in the attack and gave the defense fits while he was on the pitch.
The Academy Players
The U-23s made use of several Timbers academy players against Arizona, filling in the team's lineup while they wait on the rest of their players to finish their semesters.
Jesse Garcia-Aguilar was was a creative force for the U-23s in the first half, creating on offense and pestering the defenders whenever they had the ball on the U-23s right flank. In the second half he faded along with the rest of the team, pressing hard but getting pushed around by the increased physicality of the Arizona players.
Foster Langsdorf was also a driving force for the U-23s attack in the first half, mixing it up at his attacking midfield/second striker spot behind Belmar. Langsdorf was one of the U-23s most active players through the end of the match, but he struggled at bringing the ball down and controlling it with little support around him as the U-23s began to bunker down.
Anthony Machionne came on for the U-23s with nine minutes to go in regulation and was slotted into Langsdorf's former spot behind the team's lone striker. Unfortunately for him, as with Langsdorf, the U-23s had run out of steam and were packed back in their box, being pinned in by the relentless Arizona attack. Although he managed to break down the field several times, with no possession from the U-23s, Machionne was unable to really affect the game.