Everyone was probably focused on seeing how Will Johnson would do in his return to the pitch from injury but it was Kharlton Belmar who stole the show with a first half brace. Jake Gleeson kept the shutout and secured the victory in the second half as T2 rode the first half goals to a 2-0 win over Arizona United.
The first 10 minutes were pretty much all Arizona United. They did well to pressure T2 and were able to get off 3 shots but T2 held their defensive line. After things settled down, T2 began to see more of the ball. And Belmar was really out to pressure the Arizona backline. Twice in the first half he almost took the ball off a defender to have a clear open run on goal. But despite these close chances Belmar would not be kept off the board.
In the 19th minute Winchester got the ball and showed off his speed with a quick run towards the end line blowing past the defense before sending a cross over from the left that reached Belmar for an easy close range shot into the net to open the scoring.
Belmar finished off his first half brace in the 44th minute, essentially doing what Winchester did, getting past the defense using his speed in a similar spot on the left side. However he cut back as Arizona tried to recover and sent his shot over the defense and right into the top far corner for a real beauty of a goal.
Arizona United ended the first half with a corner kick opportunity that they sent over the box. It got to the feet of an Arizona player but Gleeson was able to make the save as the halftime whistle blew.
Coming back out for the second half Arizona again put on the pressure and did whatever they could to try to keep T2 from breaking out with speed. Throughout the first half both Winchester and Belmar showed that they could easily get behind the backline with their speed. And in the second half they continued to be dangerous but Arizona did a much better job of defending.
It was around the 60th minute that Belmar had another opportunity off the break and he put the goal in the net for what he thought was his hat trick. Unfortunately the assistant ref called offsides and his 3rd goal did not count. Right after that Will Johnson was subbed off in place of Tim Payne. His performance tonight was good to see. Johnson looked comfortable out there and maybe could have even gone 10 or 20 minutes longer. His passing and free kick accuracy got really dialed in towards the end of his 63 minute shift. He should be back for the Timbers in no time. And assuming Valeri's recovery is coming along as well as Johnson's it won't be long before the Timber midfield is restored.
For the rest of the half Arizona really tried to get back in the game, but their final touches or shots just weren't what they needed to be. And when they were, Gleeson was there to make the save. Multiple times the ball got loose in the box but Gleeson collected or T2 cleared. So for as much as Arizona tried they didn't get too many dangerous chances. The T2 defense did well to make Belmar's brace stand up and secure their first road victory.
With his first half brace, Kharlton Belmar's goal total is now 5 in 6 games. Which puts him tied at the top of the USL scoring charts. Gleeson also secured the team's first shutout this season, and now T2 get to bring home 4 points from 4 road games. They will return to Portland and play at Providence Park on Sunday May 3rd against Orange County Blues FC.
Top Three Performers
Kharton Belmar: High pressure on the Arizona defense led to at least two chances where he almost stole the ball off their feet. But who needs to steal the ball when you get a first half brace with an absolute beauty for your second. USL Goal of the Week worthy that one was.
Jake Gleeson: Got the first shutout, and on the road too. Make good saves to keep Arizona off the board. Nothing that seemed to trouble him too much, but that's a good thing.
Will Johnson: Put in a good 63 minute shift. Nothing outstanding but he is back. He was a bit rusty as expected for someone who hasn't played for so long but his passing and set piece kicks looked pretty good. He should be back in the Starting XI for the Timbers real soon.