The Portland Timbers held a closed practice yesterday, keeping things buttoned up for the duration. Timbers 2, however, practiced afterward, so let's take a moment to check in on the Timbers' new USL side.
Unsurprisingly, the structure of T2 practice was very similar to what we normally see out of the first team. Training started with basic warmups before moving into a series of passing drills that eventually incorporated crossing and finishing components.
T2 then broke into two groups for a drill that saw a group of eight attacking players trying to score on goal while six defensive players and a keeper tried to win possession of the ball and break out by passing the ball into one of three different gates.
Finally, T2 wrapped up their session with a 7v7 plus keepers game played on half the field.
Afterward, T2 head coach Jay Vidovich took a moment to talk about the state of the team.
With T2 set to start their season at the end of the month, playing the aggravatingly named Real Monarchs on March 29th at Merlo Field, the team still has some ways to before being ready for actual competition.
Asked about T2's progress so far, Vidovich said, "Right off we are just trying to find a core of players, which we are starting to get closer to. With them we are just trying to input into their brains, their DNA, how we want them to play so that we all react and think the same way on the field."
T2 have now played three games together in their preseason preparations and will play again on Friday in another closed match, taking on the University of Washington men's soccer team. Vidovich addressed the team's matches so far and their upcoming match against Washington.
"In our first match against [the Vancouver Whitecaps], when they had a lot of their first team players on, that our guys won it just showed that they are going to wear the Timbers jersey in a way that they are going to fight for a win. And they did, so that was good there. The next two games have been more of a coming together in terms of inputting our style of play, inputting it, having more control over it."
Beyond just the players on the T2 roster and competing for a potential spot with the side, the first team players like Taylor Peay and Andrew Thoma who have joined T2 for training and matches have integrated with the side well. The ability for players to move between the first team and T2 is an important part of what the Timbers are trying to accomplish with their USL side, according to Vidovich.
"The second part of coming together, which has been great with how it has worked, is that there are a lot of crossover players coming down for us for matches that are coming from the first team. That has been great is that because they are thinking the same way and training in similar ways, now they are able to come together and it is seamless. What happens when we play on Friday against Washington is we may have a whole different group but they will be playing in the same way."
However, despite the team's ongoing development, there are still only six players on the roster and another eleven in camp with the team. Vidovich did not give any details on the team's next group of signings, but he did confirm that there will be some coming up soon.
"It is in the process right now," Vidovich said, "We are close to adding several more [signings]."
Of the players that are already signed with the team, midfielder Steven Evans and forward-turned-utility-player Brent Richards are two that are clear build blocks for T2.
"My expectation of them is that they have been around the organization," said Vidovich about the pair. "They know what the lockerroom is supposed to be like and the game is supposed to be like and that is a big part of it."
Richards, who played as a forward or on the right wing during his time with the Timbers in 2012-13, is perhaps the more intriguing case of the two after having been regularly played at right back in the preseason with T2.
Asked about Richards' possible position, Vidovich said that he is a player that could play in several spots.
"There is the potential that we are looking at him at right back," Vidovich said about Richards, "and also maybe it is helping him with his defending for when he plays higher up the field.
First Team Training
If you are wondering about the first team, we really saw none of it. Will Johnson was still standing around talking to some folks when we got out there.
This is pretty much my only take away from the first team portion of things: