Yesterday, we took a look at the first team and who might be seeing a lot of minutes on loan to T2. We want to see success from players like Ben Polk and Nick Besler in 2016. But today, what should we be looking for on the current roster and who might join that current roster from the unsigned draft picks still training with the first team?
Last season there wasn't a current roster as T2 had just gained existence ahead of their first season and Portland's return to USL. But we did have an unsigned draft pick that was signed to T2 in Kharlton Belmar. In his rookie season Belmar was T2's lead scorer and set many T2 team benchmarks for attacking players. This season he will have a lot of competition and needs to fight for his minutes both at the center of the attack and perhaps out wide depending on how the Timbers want to continue to mold him.
With Kharlton Belmar, last season he showed us he had speed to burn and was just as fast in the 88th minute as he was in the 8th minute. A lot of people, myself included, looked at Belmar to earn himself a first team contract this season, even if he spent most of 2016 with T2 again. But towards the last half of the season the Timbers picked up Michael Seaton. Seaton's addition gave Belmar competition for his spot as well as took a spot in the first team depth chart where Belmar was likely hoping to make it. So in 2016, that competition will continue for Belmar. In addition to Seaton, Belmar will likely need to be flexible as well should the organization try him as a winger. With his speed and ability to bring down the long ball, he could find success as a winger. But he will need to improve his 1v1 skill, crossing, and possibly his link up play with teammates both new and old.
Another roster player to keep an eye on will be Rennico Clarke. His season ended early in 2015 with an ACL tear and still has to complete rehab before he can return to training and eventually minutes for T2. He is very highly thought of by the first team staff so his injury shouldn't derail his trajectory towards a first team contract too much. It will depend on how quickly he recovers and can get back to his pre-injury playing ability. But he is young and should be expected to make a full recovery. Given the injury and unknown to how much he will play this season, the only expectation on Clarke should be his return to playing the full 90 and having enough time to develop a partnership with Anthony Manning.
With the Timbers' unsigned draft picks, the most exciting one is Neco Brett. He could still earn himself a first team contract depending on how things work out. But even if he got a first team contract, he'd still likely see himself racking up the T2 minutes. In the preseason so far he has shown flashes of exciting potential while also showing that he has a lot of growth to accomplish. But still should be deserving of a contract and kept within the organization. I would expect that Brett earns that contract and finds himself playing out on the wing for T2 this season. In his rookie season all I would want to see is continued development in one, maybe two positions, ideally as a winger, and shows his promise to earn continued time to become a threat to MLS defenses in the future.
Trevor Morley and Wade Hamilton will be merely footnotes for now. Morley will unlikely get a first team contract, but should be able to earn a T2 contract given the lack of center back depth currently signed for T2. And Hamilton, I haven't seen anything from him, but the first team does need a 3rd string goalkeeper still. T2 also needs a 2nd keeper so Hamilton could get a contract with either and if so, would be competing with Luthy for the starting T2 keeper job. Should either player exceed the expectations of mere depth for T2, it would be considered a successful season for them.
Go back and check out part one if you missed it. Tomorrow in part three we will conclude this series with a quick look at the new international signings T2 has picked up and just how excited we should be about that.