T2 did take another loss on the road to Colorado Springs Switchbacks. And based on everything we've seen it was expected. However, it was far from a blow out, as the visitors only gave up one goal. And they certainly looked better than the last time they went on the road and lost 1-0 (see Blues, Orange County).
The visitors looked to try to go at the home team early and were particularly interested in striking at the right side of the defense (suspected weak point of otherwise very strong backline). So for about the first 15 minutes of the match it looked like T2 just might get something out of this. But as the first half wore on it became a real slow go through the midfield. T2 were missing Dylan Damraoui and didn't really have anyone to step up and try to make something happen. The home side seemed very content in sitting back in their own half only occasionally trying to nick a goal.
And so it became more and more obvious as the half wore on that it could be part of the home side's game plan to let the visitors try to break them down in the midfield and at defense tiring themselves out in the very high altitude. Not helping T2 at all was a substitution moments before the break as Kharlton Belmar had to come off due to an apparent injury. As soon as the sub was made the half time whistle blew so we'd have to wait 15 minutes to see how T2 were going to react to losing their key attacking piece.
As soon as the second half started, Colorado Springs came out firing on all cylinders ready to pounce. It appeared that it was in fact part of the game plan to sit and be patient until after the break. So when play resumed Colorado Springs put it in high gear and went after T2 as hard as they could.
The home side found the net (and all 3 points), getting the game's lone goal in the 52nd minute from their forward Mike Seth; who was able to head in a cross from close range to give the home side the lead they were looking for. Colorado Springs continued to press and search for more goals, but none would be found.
T2 began to show signs of both fatigue early in the second half. And with the wingers Polk and Brett losing their speed, the T2 attack lost a lot of its potency. But the defense continued to stand firm and were able to only concede the one goal. And T2 center back Michael Gallagher made it onto the USL Team of the Week for his defensive performance. Which also gives T2, now 5 consecutive weeks that a player on the team has made the USL Team of the Week (weeks 4 through 8).
Marco Farfan deserves a mention here. It was brought up last week that I should discuss him and this week is the perfect opportunity.
The youngest player on the team, Marco Farfan is 17 years old and a Timbers Academy player since 2013. So yes, we do have his homegrown rights. He had a rough go at first; his T2/USL pro debut was the first game this season at Swope Park. But after the rough start it seems that he locked down the left back spot as his own, getting to start and play in all 9 matches so far. And the reason I bring him up here is he has picked things up considerably well. The first two matches were really rough, but he has been getting his footing ever since. And I'd say he has reached a good run of form and consistency in the past four or five games. All of which help strengthen the defense as one of the regulars in the backline right now. Consistency is good. And about the only thing that you could say was ‘good' in the most recent match was the defense.
Did they get a shutout? No. But did they look overwhelmed? I'd argue that they didn't. Case in point: When your center back Michael Gallagher is given a USL team of the week nod, you know the defense did something right in a hostile environment by only giving up one goal. (At least the offense got some shots on goal unlike the OC Blues 1-0 loss). And like Farfan, Gallagher has started and played in every T2 match so far. In fact, Gallagher has played every minute so far (810 minutes) and is tied for the league high in minutes played.
I know T2 wants to emulate the first team, but they don't have to take it this far. Unfortunately, like the senior side, T2 appears to be suffering from a glut of injuries. I say ‘appears' because it has been difficult to near impossible to get confirmation. All of these absences are likely due to injury, but nothing is confirmed at this time. The USL does not have a robust website, lacking in stats, injury reports, and disciplinary reports. And unfortunately, I have not heard from the front office at the time of this report.
What we do know is that Kharlton Belmar went down just seconds before the half time whistle vs Colorado Springs, and was spotted in the belly of Providence Park with his arm in a sling. And speedy, exciting winger Victor Arboleda was subbed off very early in the first half a few games ago after he scored against Arizona United. We haven't seen him since, so the assumption is injury but what is injured and timeline on his return is unknown.
Another key player we haven't seen is Dylan Damraoui. And being a key cog in the young T2 midfield his absence is very likely due to injury and nothing more. But again, we are unable to confirm anything right now. I am trying to find out if it is possible to get a list of the current injuries and timelines to return though.
T2 face the USL Western conference's top team this Friday night, May 20th, at Providence Park. Vancouver Whitecaps 2 will be following their first team to Portland as we get a (sorta) double header. The USL sides will play at Providence Park Friday night with a 7:30pm kickoff while the MLS sides will enjoy some brunch at the Park early Sunday afternoon.
T2 have played Whitecaps 2 once this season already, with a 3-1 loss at Merlo Field. And will get to travel to Vancouver twice later on this season. This will be the 10th game of the season and mark the completion of the first third of 2016. This also kicks off a five game home stand. Yes, FIVE games in a row where T2 plays at home. With "home" being three different locations: Providence Park twice (Whitecaps 2/Sounders 2), Merlo Field twice (San Antonio/Sounders 2), and Boise, Idaho (Swope Park Rangers).
But they all count as home matches, regardless of the venue, and all need to be games that T2 leaves everything on the field to try to get 3 points apiece. This upcoming match will be difficult with the Whitecaps 2 riding high at the top of the conference and looking like a very strong team. The visitors bring the confidence, having already defeated T2 once this season, as well as the momentum, having defeated LA Galaxy II 4-3.
After they host the Whitecaps 2, T2 get to return to Providence Park for a third straight home match. This time Fishing Village, Jr comes to play. Thursday, May 26th, 7:00pm kickoff T2 will get the chance to get their first win against the team currently propping up the Western Conference table from the very bottom.