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Roots Report: Gem State

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T2 beat S2 for the first time ever last week. With a 1-0 win at Providence Park, T2 took all three points against the worst team in the USL West, Sounders 2. It was Villyan Bijev who got his first goal for T2 and the defense secured a shut out against a misfiring S2 attack. With Bijev's first goal for T2, that makes 8 different players who have scored for T2, and McIntosh got his 2nd shutout of the season while Hamilton continues first team bench duty to cover Jake Gleeson.

Villyan Bijev got his goal in the 25th minute with a powerful, driven shot from distance to beat S2 keeper Charlie Lyon. Seth Casiple, who subbed on early for an injured Andre Lewis, passed the ball up the field to Bijev who was able to turn and shoot from about 25 yards out.

T2 generated a lot of shots, 15 in total, but were only able to get 4 of them on frame. So despite generating multiple chances, only a few were dangerous. And T2 had the best opportunity to go up 2-0 when they were awarded a PK late in the second half. Bijev was very active after finally scoring his first goal and was very excited to try to get his second. But perhaps he was too excited. When he stepped up to take the PK he unfortunately shanked the strike to the right.

But S2 has been in last place due to an inability to finish and get goals. And this trend continued as, despite putting 5 of 10 shots on frame, they could not find the equalizer. And the last few minutes saw S2 throw everything forward trying to salvage a point but the T2 defense held and secured their deserved shutout and the first points obtained against S2.

Villyan Bijev

Villyan Bijev, hailing from the Liverpool U-21s, Fortuna Düsseldorf II, Slavia Sofia, and most recently Cherno More, finally got his first goal for T2. He was given starting duties in the first three matches over Kharlton Belmar but did not impress enough and Belmar secured his starting spot again. But in the past few matches, Bijev has been improving and his hard work was finally rewarded with his first goal.

It was a really impressive, well taken goal. And throughout the match he had some extra pep in his step for finally breaking the duck. He had an opportunity to get a second late in the match as he stepped up to take the PK that the home side was awarded but unfortunately he shanked it to the right. So he still has some work to do and perhaps missing the PK will help him realize that, although he has improved and been rewarded with his first goal, there is still growing and learning to do.

I think with Bijev getting his first goal and showing good form it does well to represent how much this team has improved since the first game back at the end of March against Swope Park Rangers. Part building chemistry with teammates, part learning the system, Bijev stands out as a good measuring stick for the overall improvement of T2 as the season continues to progress.

Returning Injuries

Dylan Damraoui should be returning from being injured very soon. He was on the bench against S2 but did not see any minutes. However, if he is fit enough for bench duty then he shouldn't be too far away from returning to getting game minutes and influencing the T2 midfield again. Particularly if Andre Lewis' injury is anything that is going to keep him out of the 18 for more than a game.

Further from returning, but nonetheless making progress, are both Victor Arboleda and Rennico Clarke. Both players have been seen training with T2. After injuring his knee last season Rennico Clarke hasn't seen the field since 2015. But now that he is back in training it should be only a matter of time before we get to see the return of Clarke to the T2 lineup. And hopefully Victor Arboleda returns soon as well. He is a very exciting winger that we have been unfortunate not to see more of. His goal scored right before his injury is hopefully a sign of things to come.

Future Expectations

We are 11 games into the season with about 19 more to go. And MLS "2" teams are not allowed to participate in the US Open Cup this season. So will we see any first team loanees get US Open Cup minutes this season? Normally the question would be a very obvious yes, for at least the first US Open Cup game against lower opposition. This season though the Timbers face San Jose at home (again). So the question of whether they opt to use first team loanees is a little less cut and dry.

And this will be particularly interesting given that a T2 match has been rescheduled to be played at Providence Park in a double header immediately preceding the San Jose USOC match. At minimum, whoever is in the 18 for T2 that afternoon will speak directly on who to expect in the 18 for the first team just three hours later.

Another competition that the first team needs all hands on deck for is the CONCACAF Champions League. And the same question exists for the CCL. Will any loanees earn minutes in this competition? With a challenging group stage ahead of them, the first team will definitely need to use all the players available to them. But who and how much will be asked.

Players like Neco Brett, Ben Polk, and Nick Besler need to continue to develop and impress with T2 to earn the opportunity to help the first team succeed in the US Open Cup and CCL this season.

What's Next?

Tomorrow, Saturday, June 4th, T2 will play host to the Swope Park Rangers. Except this home match will be in the Gem State. Playing at Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian, Idaho, T2 will bring the Timbers brand across the Snake River and into the new homegrown territory it was given by MLS. Kickoff is set for 6:00pm pacific, 7:00pm mountain/local.

With more of a neutral venue than a home venue, T2 should still have a slight advantage going into this match with the momentum of victory on their side. And after squeezing out a 1-0 home victory over a team whose attack is out of shapes, T2 get to try to repeat in a similar situation for 3 more points. Swope Park Rangers, like S2, have had trouble finding the back of the net as of late. They started the season off right with 2 wins and a draw, but since then have only won once more, losing more often than not. Only three times this season they've been able to get 2 goals in a match (the only 3 victories they have), otherwise they only score 1 or 0 goals in losses and draws.

If T2 can get some more of their chances on frame and put 2 goals past the visitors, the team should be able to bring home all 3 points from the Gem State on Saturday night.