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Roots Report: Two Halves

One Point. Two Games. Disappointing Results.

Whoops, sorry, did that clearance result in the game winning goal for my opponent?
Whoops, sorry, did that clearance result in the game winning goal for my opponent?

We've got two games to recap, so let's get started with the San Antonio FC match from Saturday the 11th. Then we'll follow it up with the S2 match from Tuesday the 14th. Both games were dichotomous in their play each half. Versus San Antonio, T2 saw a better 1st half turn into a worse 2nd half and lose 2 points. Versus S2, T2 lacked energy and drive against a rival in the 1st half but turned it into a strong 2nd half performance that fell just short of being able to salvage a point.

San Antonio FC: 1-1 Draw

San Antonio came into town on a streak of not scoring goals in USL league play. So of course they score twice at Merlo Field. First was an own goal to put T2 up 1-0, second was the equalizer late in the second half to see the side salvage a draw against T2's 10 men.

This was the yearly T1.5 game where a break in MLS play means a number of first team bench players get loaned down to get minutes and stay sharp ahead of the next match. As such, the Starting XI had 8 of 11 players signed to first team contracts start the game against San Antonio FC. Last season, in 2015, the game was at Providence Park and against Orange County Blues. That ended in an embarrassing 2-0 loss. This one ended in a disappointing but fair 1-1 draw. And fair only because of how it ended, with T2 having 10 men on the field. But the red card given was a horrible call and this game probably should've ended 1-0 if all 11 players had stayed on.

Amobi Okugo and Jack Barmby played in the first 45 minutes as a warm up to Tuesday's US Open Cup match. And the own goal scored by San Antonio in the 16th minute came directly from a corner kick taken by Barmby on the far side. In addition to those two, Alvas Powell joined T2 and played 62 minutes in his first time seeing the field since his injury earlier in the season with the first team.

And T2 looked the better team in the first half. Despite all the first team loans, they looked cohesive and focused. Much better than their performance compared to the T1.5 match a year prior. But coming out of the break San Antonio were hungry for a result and progressively dominated as the second half wore on.

The breaking point for T2 was the red card given to Kharlton Belmar. T2 were having a lot of difficulty breaking out of their own half. What little success they were finding came through the speed and combination of Belmar and Arboleda. In the 81st minute Belmar intercepted a long ball in T2's half and used his speed to sprint down the field into the SAFC box, where he was able to juke the lone defender in front of him. When he pulled the ball back it got about two feet away from him. Both Belmar and SAFC keeper Josh Ford (ex-Sounder, booo!!) went for the ball in what really looked like Belmar's ball in real time, more 50/50 in the replays. Ford does what a keeper is supposed to do and gets down to catch/smoother/block the ball or shot. And gets to it as Belmar is about to kick it for a shot. The two collide and Ford stays down hurt. The ref comes over, and points to Belmar to walk away, no cards shown. Then after a few seconds of looking at the keeper and after the trainers come out the ref goes over to Belmar and shows him a red card. I disagree with the call because it really seems like it was a 50/50 ball at worst and there was no violent action by Belmar against the keeper. Should have been a yellow. And it was pointed out to me after the match, that this is the same ref as the one who oversaw the infamous "red card wedding". I also reached out to PTFCollective's Erik Morgan who breaks down PRO referee performances for first team games to get his opinion on this call:

After the red card the keeper was able to get up and play out the rest of the game without any issues. And unfortunately T2 would not be able to hold onto the shut out and three points because San Antonio were able to capitalize on the man advantage, scoring the equalizer in the 87th minute. As such T2 had to walk off the field knowing they lost Belmar for the S2 game and gave up two points that they were just a few minutes away from securing.

This quote from Andrew Gregor kinda says it all. The team lost the points due to losing focus and not having the drive, or as he puts it, killer instinct, to go and get the desired result.

Overall, I thought there was some decent stuff in the first half. I thought there were opportunities, maybe in the first half, to go and get the second one. We just didn't really have the killer instinct tonight at certain times. In the second half, we made some changes and at times struggled with some of their pressure. They got a bit more energy and enthusiasm about the game in the second half, and we didn't manage it very well and in those moments we didn't make good decisions. The pressure became more and more and more and I think rightly so, they scored a goal. They put us under a ton of pressure and I think the red card was a little unfortunate, but you have to move on. Those are referee decisions and you have to move on, and we were able to get out of it with a point. So, at the end of the day, we learn from the mistakes and move on.

Seattle Sounders 2: 2-1 Loss

A tale of two halves unfortunately spelled out a story of bad bounces, worse clearances, and an embarrassing result. A little bit of a bright side though saw the first goal scored by an Timbers Academy product during a second half surge that was not enough to get a draw.

I swear to you there was a soccer game being played for 35 minutes, but there was absolutely nothing going on until the 35th minute. (one whole shot taken by T2 which was well off frame up to that point). Unfortunately, the event to wake up the game in the 35th minute was an S2 goal. Their first shot, on frame, and in the net. S2 only got 4 shots all game and only 2 were on frame. But those two on frame went into the net for a perfect conversion rate and zero saves made by McIntosh in this match.

In the 35th minute, John Magnus crossed the ball over to Myron Samuel in the box who one-timed the ball into the narrowest of openings between McIntosh and the near post. A half inch either left or right and it would've been saved. But he put the shot in the one single place where it was going to squeeze by McIntosh and put the visitors up 1-0. In real time I thought McIntosh made an error or the ball pinged around between him and the post to get in, but the replays showed that it was actually quite a well taken shot by Samuel.

It didn't stop there though, T2 continued to play flat and without any fight or desire throughout the first half. S2 capitalized on some bad defending and ball bounces that went their way to get their second and eventually game winning goal. S2 were able to get a cross off in the box when Lowe did not close down his man enough. The cross deflected off Morley but went directly to Gallagher. Unfortunately, Gallagher was surprised by the deflected ball headed to his feet and either the ball deflected off him due to inaction or he flubbed an attempted clearance, replays are difficult to determine which. Either way the ball went into the left knee of John Magnus who was just standing there watching and deflected off his knee and into the goal for their second of the afternoon. Call it unlucky, a bad bounce, or bad defending, either way S2, who were struggling all season to score goals until 2 matches ago, got 2 goals at Providence Park.

Now, being up 2 goals didn't concern me all that much for a couple of reasons. First match that S2 learned how to score they went up 2-0 only to lose 5-2 in an epic collapse against OC Blues. S2 followed that game up with another 2-0 lead against the Whitecaps 2. The Whitecaps 2 were able to bring that to a 2-2 game, again showing S2's inability to hold onto a lead, but S2 did get a late game winner to make it a 3-2 victory and their second win of the entire season. So for a third match in a row S2 went up 2-0. I was hoping for very similar circumstances where T2 could've gotten 2 goals in the second half to salvage something. And T2 certainly came out of the break on fire and with energy and drive we hadn't seen since Boise and the first part of the San Antonio game. Numerous chances fell to T2 between the 55th and 65th minutes that were really close but either just off frame or blocked by S2. T2 took 8 of their 9 shots in the second half with only two of them on frame. But unlike the visitors they weren't able to convert both of them, only one.

And in the 67th minute, Blake Bodily made some history by scoring the first goal by an academy player for T2. As a strong proponent of Mr. Bodily since 2015, and countless times going on twitter saying "boy sure would be nice if Blake Bodily scores his first goal today", it was very, very exciting to see the kid tally his first goal.

All I saw was Gally [Michael Gallagher] get the ball, we made eye contact and just made a run through. He played a perfect ball to my head and I was able to get a head on it and loft it over the keeper. I didn't even know what to do after I scored and with all of the fans cheering, I got goosebumps. It was awesome.

As the team continued to find chances and push forward, Gallagher sent a cross in from the left where Bodily was able to jump highest and get his head to it. A good ball lofted over the hands of S2 keeper Charlie Lyon saw Bodily bring the home side within 1 and reward the team for their continued second half pressure and determination to secure a result.

Unfortunately, S2 held out for the remainder of the match despite T2 throwing it all plus the kitchen sink at them. And T2 lost all the points at home. Their second half effort was not enough to recover from the two goal deficit going into the half. And Gregor wasn't pleased with the first half effort from the team either:

It was a disappointing result. I thought we didn't start very well. The first half was below average, but in the second half we got things going a little bit. We had a bit more energy and excitement for the game and we could've pulled that one out, but you have to start games properly.

It's one of those things where we talk about the way we want to play. You have to have fight and drive and effort, especially in these rivalry games. The second half was better. The players brought it. We tinkered with a couple things, which helped the guys out with their movement. They seemed a little too excited at times to run and play. We had a great work rate in digging things out a little bit. It was better.

Blake Bodily

He showed well in his home state of Idaho against Swope Park Rangers. And he kept that up against San Antonio. But against S2, particularly in the second half, he looked really good. And he was rewarded with his first ever goal. Very exciting for the high schooler. And he is someone the other academy players look up to. So hopefully this goal is the beginning of a continued strong effort from Bodily and provides further confidence in fellow academy players Farfan and Lowe.

Momentum and Results

Momentum swings throughout the season. And T2 were on the upswing for a bit. The performances have all been improving step by step but the results were finally following that. T2 had two wins in a row and were poised to get their first win streak in club history before San Antonio ruined the party late in the second half.

And the momentum they had seemed to stall at that point. Going from giving up a draw to fighting for one versus S2. The results turned against the young kids. But even in the wins they were showing an inability to finish out all 90 minutes. Losing focus towards the end of games or not starting off on the right foot. Gregor is whipping them into shape and being able to focus for all 90 minutes and learning how to finish out games is on the top of their list right now as they continue to work with the kids.

The momentum won't likely shift in the next game either as T2 must travel to Whitecaps 2 this Sunday and face the team that is still top in the West on their home field. But swings like this are normal especially with the young and inexperienced players that make up the bulk of the T2 minutes. The good news is T2 will have Belmar back against the Whitecaps 2 and likely Brett as well. Both of their attacking talents were missed by T2 against S2. And with Arboleda back to a starting role, I'd still be excited to see what T2 can do with at least 60 or more minutes of Belmar, Brett, and Arboleda together. Arboleda did take a little knock and was subbed off as a precaution in the S2 match but hopefully it was minor and he still continues to play. It would be horribly unfortunate for a player of his potential to be perpetually sidelined by injury.

What's Next?

After the draw and loss at home to wrap up 5 straight home games, T2 returns to the road for the remainder of June. First up is a trip across the border. This Sunday, June 19th, T2 will play at the University of British Columbia's Thunderbird Stadium in the 3rd match against the Whitecaps 2. Kickoff will be at 2:00pm pacific and as always you can catch the stream live on the T2 home page.

We've gone over the Whitecaps 2 ad nauseum since we've already played and lost to them at home twice this season. This will be the 3rd game of 4 overall and the 1st of two up north. Despite suffering a loss to S2, Whitecaps 2 are still in first place in the west and do not look even remotely poised to lose that spot anytime soon. So it will be a very difficult challenge for T2 pull out of their doldrums and get a result. It's not entirely out of the question though if T2 go up properly motivated and ready for the game with a desire to revenge the two losses this season so far. I know its obvious but if the defense can hold firm against WC2 then T2's ability to score at least a goal per game could see them leave with at least a point.

After the Whitecaps 2 visit, T2 will travel to Missouri and play St Louis FC for the first and only time this season. That match is on Saturday, June 25th with a 5:30pm pacific kickoff. Like San Antonio, this is a team that T2 will only play once the entire season. But first T2 will have to try to deal with the table topping Cascadian rival.