T2 suffered another loss at the hands of the table-topping Vancouver Whitecaps 2. At the top of the USL Western Conference (comfortably with 20 points from only 8 games played), Whitecaps 2 have yet to taste defeat this season. 6-0-2 they were victorious over T2 for the second time this season.
T2 were put behind the 8 ball before even one minute of time had passed. Not the way you want to start a match but unfortunately the visitors got themselves on the board in the first minute. The ball was sent forward by Spencer Richey on a goal kick. Some slipping, defensive mistakes, and mainly the inability to properly clear the ball saw it fall to the feet of Kyle Greig. It had appeared Greig may have mis-hit the ball but still gotten enough on it to get it to slowly roll across the goal line while a few T2 players were sprawled on the ground. But on replay Greig struck the ball from just inside the 18 yard box and it took a deflection off a sliding T2 defender. McIntosh was wrong footed due to the deflection and could do nothing but fall backwards and watch the ball roll calmly across the line.
The visitors struck again in the 19th minute behind a well taken free kick by ex-T2 player, Fatawu Safiu. Fatawu's free kick was well struck as it curled over the wall and into the top corner. Fatawu seemed to take some extra enjoyment scoring upon his former team. His goal would also stand as the game winner once T2 were able to pull one back.
And get one goal they did. Thanks to Kharlton Belmar who was healthy, started, and played all 90 mins (he was subbed off due to injury in previous match and seen Sunday prior to this game with his arm in a sling so there were questions). Belmar got to the ball at the end line and evaded the Whitecaps 2 defender to get into the box where he calmly slipped the ball to Neco Brett who was near the penalty spot. From there, it was a simple one-touch tap in for Brett.
The first half would end 2-1, advantage Whitecaps 2, but Brett did get close to a brace in the 35th minute with a well struck long distance attempt, but the keeper did well to palm it away. And in the second half it was much of the same as T2 continued to press for an equalizer. However, the visitors would seal their victory in the 74th minute with another goal that was due more to defensive mistakes than anything else. It was about two passes that got the ball from the center circle to the top of the T2 box. Each pass cutting out 2 players, Whitecaps 2 were lethal in very quickly striking at the home side to catch them off guard. T2 players were unable to stop the ball at either pass and after the 2nd pass the ball rolled into the 18 with Jordan Haynes running after it. He slid to get his foot to it and beat a T2 defender to the ball. In likely another deflected shot, Haynes got to the ball first but the defender was able to slide into the path. Unfortunately it came up and well over Kendall McIntosh who could do nothing but watch it sail over him and into the back of the net.
Neco Brett has been very good on the wing recently for T2. Scoring his 3rd goal in 3 games in this past match and producing the team high in shots taken and shots on goal Neco Brett appears to be rounding into form. With his good form and continued development of the understanding of what is asked of him, he was rewarded with his first MLS minutes as a second half stoppage time substitute in the 4-2 victory of the first team over the Vancouver Whitecaps two days after this T2 game. Well deserved for the young rookie, Gregor and staff will be looking for Brett to continue to improve and meet further expectations of him as he develops and possibly begins to compete for some first team minutes.
What this could also do is help fellow T2 winger and 1st team loanee, Ben Polk. Polk himself has been improving as well. Perhaps as he sees Neco Brett's ascension to gain his first MLS minutes, Polk will be pushing himself to achieve that too. Competition is always a good thing as these young players push each other to get better, develop, improve, all with the ultimate goal of securing a spot on the first team.
Nothing of real significance to mention here, other than, Blake Bodily has returned to seeing T2 minutes. In the same U-18 academy team as Marco Farfan and Terrell Lowe, Blake Bodily impressed in the minutes he got in 2015. I've heard that he is a leader on the academy team as fellow academy players look up to him and follow his lead. And right now, along with Farfan and Lowe, one of the top 3 U-18 prospects we have. Right now, in the U-16's is Adrian Villegas who continues to impress and once he reaches the U-18, would be very exciting to see get some T2 minutes.
So with school getting out, summer time approaching, we have the return of Blake Bodily. This also means that a lot of academy players will get to train with T2 in the mornings over the summer helping them get a taste of what is needed in the pro game. So in 2015 we started to see Bodily, Lowe, and Farfan. The latter two of whom have made strides to seeing a lot more minutes in 2016. Will we see anyone new from the academy get some bench time or T2 minutes in 2016? That is something to keep an eye out as the summer progresses.
I want to quickly mention that Okugo made his first appearance for the organization in this match. He played 62 minutes at center back in this match. As predicted on Play The Kids, Okugo hasn't played a lot of minutes (if any) this season so it made the most sense to drop him directly into T2 to start building up match fitness. And sure enough he started and gained 62 minutes. And these will be vital minutes as he works towards match fitness so he can help out the first team. The idea is definitely that Okugo is going to work with the first team primarily, but when that starts is the question. Lack of depth on the first team due to injuries and international absences should drive him into at least the 18 very quickly. But in the mean time we should expect to see him for perhaps at least one more T2 match as they continue to build up his match fitness.
After facing the top of the table, Whitecaps 2, mid-table T2 face the bottom of the pack, the team holding everyone else up in the standings, Seattle Sounders 2. With only one single win to their name and a conference worst record of 1-5-4, this is a game that would be an absolute embarrassment if T2 lost.
Also of note, T2 should be looking to start the season off right against S2 and get a little revenge for 2015. Last season T2 lost all 5 matches they played against S2. With the Sounders Jr team getting three victories at home (2 regular season, 1 US Open Cup) and taking all three points in both regular season visits to Portland.
With the visiting baby flounders lead scorer only having 2 goals, lead assist man with only 3 assists, and having been outscored 14-5 in the past five matches, T2 should do everything they can to put the screws to S2 and put the game away early if possible. Joshua Duder goes over S2 well in the most recent Play The Kids episode. This is a team at the bottom of the standings but still doing everything on the pitch right. Everything except an inexplicable inability to finish. So this team is still dangerous but as long as T2 can keep the visitors on their bad finishing and put a few of their good opportunities away themselves, we should expect the home side to get a comfortable victory at home and a first win against S2.
T2 will return to Providence Park, this Thursday, May 26th, with a 7:00pm pacific kickoff time. If you can't make the match, don't forget to tune in via live webstream found at theT2 homepage. After hosting S2 Thursday night, T2 will travel to Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian, Idaho for a home game hosting the Swope Park Rangers. After Idaho, they will return to Portland for two more home matches before seeing another road game in late June.