Third match this season and third time T2 were unable to procure a result. This time the goals were scored in the first half and T2 could not overcome the deficit in the second. T2 were also shut out for the first time this season. So it's not smelling of roses for the 3rd division side in the Rose City.
In the first 10 minutes of the match I thought T2 were doing well. They came out and looked strong in the opening moments and I began to feel that they just might be able to get their first favorable result. But then the kids began to regress towards their first match performance. It was not nearly as bad. But the Toros were able to take advantage in the 18th minute. One of the players that we had mentioned to keep an eye on in Episode 3 of Play The Kids, left back Bradley Bourgeois scored the team's first goal in their history. The Toros got a corner kick and Bourgeois was able to snap the ball on frame at the near post.
After that, T2 gave up their third PK in as many games. In the 31st minute Jose Escalante ran at Brent Richards in the box. It appeared Richards tried to stand his ground but Escalante tipped the ball just to Richard's left before running right into Richards and having both players fall down. A bit sloppy and the Toros got the call. Forward Dzenan Catic converted the PK to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Like the PK given up in game 1, Hamilton guessed correctly but a very well taken PK is nearly impossible to keep out. Hamilton almost got fingertips to it but it was a strong strike into the very left bottom corner.
The best opportunity for the home team to try to get one back came in the 44th minute when Bijev appeared to have placed a shot with such power and accuracy as would guarantee he open his account and prove to all why he has been starting over Belmar. Unfortunately Devin Perales made a fingertip save of the year to tip the shot over the crossbar.
The second half was mostly T2 trying to play catch up and the Toros not letting up at all. T2 had a chance in the 64th minute to end the shutout when Andre Lewis slotted a streaking Belmar in behind the defense. But Perales was up to the task and rushed out to win the 1v1 with Belmar and snuff out T2's best chance of the second half. With a 2 goal lead the Toros appeared hungry for more and did not bunker at any point in the match. They kept their second half play balanced, working to keep the shut out while still threatening anytime they pushed forward.
Questions About The Team
Not getting any results is frustrating. This is a development team, but it is also a professional team. And fans want results. However, probably the most frustrating part is a lack of forward progress. If the mess that was game one is your starting point, there was much progress in the team in game two even if the result wasn't there. There were a lot of positives to take away and Damraoui and Arboleda were exciting.
Then game three happens and any progress looked halted. Not that they were anywhere near the mess of the first match. But it definitely looked like a two steps forward, one step back type of performance. And given the youth and inexperience and patience needed, as the staff has been vocal to point out, this is most likely what the majority of the season could end up being. One game will be filled with promise and flashes of potential while the next game will leave us scratching our heads.
Another issue many have been having is why Belmar is starting over Bijev. Belmar is the 2015 Rookie of the year and we know he scores goals. He is a fan favorite and its obvious the attack is more cohesive when he is out there on the pitch. So why do they insist on starting Bijev?
It's a hard question to answer with any accuracy. Mainly because we do not know the inner workings of the staff or their thought processes or how they value each player and how they want to get minutes to the players they want. But the evidence that we have points to a sad conclusion: Belmar is not valued by the staff. Now, this is not necessarily true, but the evidence available seems to point to this conclusion. And it's not that he isn't valued at all, just that it appears the staff don't see him ever making the first team. In 2015, he looked like he could make first team depth. But then they brought in and signed Michael Seaton to the first team. And then in the 2016 draft they grabbed Ben Polk and Neco Brett, both of whom have first team contracts. Even if all of these players getting first team contracts ahead of Belmar don't mean anything, you just look at the Starting XI. Belmar isn't there. Gregor and staff have said the focus is on development. Their goal is to get players prepared for the first team. So the guys getting the most minutes with T2 should be the ones that both the first team and second team staff see as the players with the most likely potential to make the first team.
Therefore, Belmar is not starting with T2 because results are not the priority and they don't view Belmar as someone who can make it with the first team. It is not the answer many people will be happy with but unfortunately it is the one that makes the most sense.
Lewis is one of the players that I thought improved a bit from his previous two performances. Not by much, nothing outstanding, only an incremental improvement each match. But he made improvements in his game, especially his passing, from game one to game two. And he continued that trend in game three. The only question is whether his improvement was due to the absence of Damraoui who had to sit this one out due to his red card. With Damraoui out, Casiple was slotted in to replace him, but it ended up being Lewis who stayed more forward instead of playing his usual box-to-box role.
One of the players who did not regress. Yes he keeps giving up goals, but any lesser keeper would'veI can't imagine Hamilton not making improvements given the firing line he has faced each match. He really does look like he has the potential to be a good keeper in the future. He has a rotating lineup of defenders ahead of him so I can understand his struggles in being able to organize the defense in front of him, if he is trying to organize it at all. It is something he definitely needs to work on and this season it appears he will get a lot of minutes to practice organizing different defenses.
T2 will finish up their 3 match home stand against Sacramento Republic FC. Once again taking the pitch at Merlo Field, it will be an early Sunday afternoon game. Kickoff is a 2pm on Sunday, April 17th. It isn't going to be easy for T2 to get a result. Sacramento Republic is undefeated with 2 wins and a draw in three games so far. But, the bright side is they have only scored 2 goals in those three games. Both of their victories were 1-0 wins against teams that would be considered easy prey right now (Sounders 2 and Arizona United). Their draw was a 0-0 result in Vancouver against Whitecaps 2. So T2 may benefit from a struggling offense. However the defense has yet to have a goal scored against them and withstood the Whitecaps 2 attack. While anything can happen, I'd imagine a low scoring affair if goals are scored at all. T2 has the talent to get goals though. So if Gregor can set them up right and get more training in this week (COUGH START BELMAR COUGH) T2 have a golden opportunity to get their first points of the season.
Brett made the bench for the first team last night as expected. It would be safe to say he makes the bench on Saturday too. As long as he doesn't play, expect Brett to start for T2 on Sunday. If he gets a short sub appearance Brett might still start but it would be more likely that he ends up a T2 attacking sub. And on the off chance that Brett is used for any significant purpose against San Jose then we would not see him in the T2 18.