It's another loss due to a late lapse in judgment or focus. And the Whitecaps 2 are now one game away from a full season sweep over T2 just like S2 did on us last season. And this is officially the midpoint of the season. We have played 15 games and have 15 more to go.
Whitecaps 2: 1-0 Loss
Very much like the S2 game before it, this match started off quite a bit slow. Except instead of giving up two goals in the first half, it ended scoreless. And this was mostly because the Whitecaps 2 were just as "timid" as T2 were in their play throughout the first half. Perhaps both teams were giving the other a bit too much respect or both were being wary of counterattacks in the first half and just being overly cautious. Either way, it was a struggle for both teams (and perhaps spectators) to get to the half time break.
In the second half, things changed a bit for both teams. The home side came out much more aggressive and on the offensive while the visitors went a bit less cautious in their overall approach and it felt like they opted to just bunker in. Now granted T2 got 6 shots off in the match, so there were attempts made. 2 of them were on frame. But the Whitecaps 2 were easily the more offensive team getting twice as many shots off and despite only 2 on frame as well, they were able to convert one of those chances into a goal. And in the 87th minute no less.
T2 should've been able to conjure up something with the return of Belmar and Brett to the attack. But it was pretty rare for T2 to look dangerous. They were certainly up for the match though and defended well with the exception of the last few minutes when Whitecaps 2 went hard for a goal to win the match (and got it). Both losses to the Whitecaps 2 were 3-1 losses at home, so nearly squeaking out a 0-0 draw away would be an improvement in and of itself. But in many games this season T2 have lost the script, and points, due to not being able to stay focus for a full 90. And so another disappointing loss was handed to T2.
I've talked a lot about the players but never about the man who has been in charge of developing them this season. This is the half way point in the season. 15 games played, 15 games to go. And the record for T2 through 15 games is 5-8-2. Which is, shockingly, identical to Jay Vidovich's first 15 games with T2 in 2015. Exactly 5-8-2 (counting only league matches, two USOC matches were played by T2 (1-1-0) before they reached 15 league games).
But there is a difference. Jay started off strong and had a 4 game losing streak towards the end of those first 15 games. And T2 mostly languished near the bottom or on the bottom of the table from that 4 game losing streak onward. Gregor's team has a few more upsides. First and foremost, the team went much younger and has talent with much more potential and future upside. And Gregor's team (as he has put it quite often this season) are not only young but inexperienced and that is their explanation mostly for the bad results the team has had.
Another positive note with Gregor's side this season is all of the minutes that academy players Farfan, Lowe, and Bodily have gotten. Blake Bodily even scored his first goal and the first ever goal for an academy player. So along those lines this team is much better and Gregor is getting more out of the players this season than they were able to last season. T2 is solidly mid-table this season and if things work out could be fighting for a low seed playoff spot at the end of the summer.
It also feels like T2 is very much playing like the first team this year. Jay's side had little relation to the first team for long periods of 2015 and it was very difficult to determine if he was going for results, developing players, following the first team, or just blazing his own path. But with Gregor it is obvious that he is developing players and following the first team setup. Results are secondary but they have come after a slow start. And it will only take a few good results to get up near the top where T2 was briefly for a couple of weeks (that can be said for almost any team in the west though as the standings are pretty tight).
So based on how the team started out and how they play now, I think Gregor's time so far has been a success for the most part. The academy kids are proving themselves and improving with Farfan impressing a lot this season and Bodily getting his first goal. Belmar is still good in the attack. And they've successfully integrated Damraoui (still out injured) and Arboleda, two very exciting international kids with loads of potential, into the setup. Idowu and Meva are still being worked on in trying to integrate them into the system. I really have no clue when, or even if, we see them play. But it could be a training/development/integration thing this year and we end up seeing tons of them next year. Or they could end up being flops. Who knows.
What I expect in the second half of the season is more ups and downs, and swings in momentums, but pretty much a team always in the mix. Both as far as each individual game is concerned and the standings in general. The expectation is still more development focused and hoping that Arboleda, Damraoui, or Clarke (or any combo of the 3) secure first team contracts. But getting into the playoffs may not be too far fetched.
T2 will travel to the state of Missouri and face, for the one and only time this season, St Louis FC. Kickoff is at 5:30pm pacific, Saturday, June 25th. St Louis FC sit in 6th place and only 2 points ahead of T2 in 9th place. Like San Antonio a couple of games prior, this will be the only time these two teams face each other in league play. Because USL's schedule is quite unbalanced.
St Louis FC appears to be a team that when they win, they win big. Their first win was 3-1 over the OC Blues. They got a 5-2 win over Tulsa in Oklahoma and followed that up with a 7-1 win at home against Tulsa in the match before last. Their most recent result was a 2-1 away loss to Arizona United. So like T2, they are a team of ups and downs, which makes sense given how close these two teams are to each other in the standings and on points. As such, if T2 play their best, and can attack through their effective Belmar, Brett, Arboleda trio, there is no reason they shouldn't be able to return home with 3 points. But T2 are on the down swing having sustained a draw, followed by two losses, while St Louis got a 7-1 win at home before losing 2-1 on the road. Despite the loss they will likely be looking to return to the friendly confines of their World Wide Technology Soccer Park and try to quickly forget their one loss. T2 also will need to pick themselves up and dust off and get ready to go all out for a full 90 if they want to bring back a result.
We will cover St Louis in much more detail on the next episode of Play The Kids which records tonight. So give that a listen tomorrow morning!