It was, by all accounts, a pretty huge success for T2's first trip over the border into Idaho. T2 got the win in front of a sold out crowd of 4,352 at Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian. The standout performance of the evening, easily man of the match, was Neco Brett whose goal and assist gave T2 the 2-1 win over Swope Park Rangers.
Neco Brett put the home side up in the 27th minute with a good free kick. He stepped up to take the kick and when the player on the end of the wall decided to take a stroll Brett aimed straight for the giant hole that also was not well covered by the Swope Park keeper. A simple, straight, shot with authority was put into the upper side netting on the far post and the home side had the lead.
It felt pretty simple to keep Swope Park off the board as for the most of the first half they appeared very disconnected and disinterested. No real pressure came from the visitors to try to win the ball and they seemed content to sit back and try to prevent T2 from getting any more goals.
In the second half, T2 doubled their lead through speedster Victor Arboleda. Making his return from injury as a 66th minute substitute, Arboleda's finish ended up being the game winner and it was great to see the young winger make an immediate impact upon his first minutes returning to play. Before his goal, Arboleda had made a speedy run in behind the defense but couldn't get his final touch to setup a good shot. But it was only 4 mins after coming on that he got his second chance via a perfect through ball from Neco Brett. Brett's pass in behind the defense and into space that he knew Arboleda would run into was one of the best passes I've seen this year out of either T2 or the first team. With inhuman speed Arboleda blasted past the defenders, leaving them in the dust, as he ran onto Brett's ball. And with the distance gained between himself and the quickly retreating defense, he had the time to line up a calm, well placed shot past the keeper and into the net.
Unfortunately, T2 were not able to secure the shutout. They let off the gas a little bit towards the end of the match as Swope Park finally decided to play with some urgency and pressure. Swope Park's Mark Gonzalez was able to pull one back for the visitors in the 85th minute with a lofted ball over Kendall McIntosh. But after that, T2 kept it locked down and were able to have the Idaho crowd leave pleased with securing all three points.
Brett put in one of his best performances yet for T2. With a goal and the assist on the game winner, Brett was voted into the USL Team of the Week. He was up for nomination of USL Player of the Week but did not win the award. This goal marked his 4th in 5 matches.
After getting rewarded with a couple of stoppage time minutes and an MLS debut, he continues to improve and showcase a lot of talent on the field for T2. Proving that giving him a first team contract was a smart call, Brett is definitely making a case for getting US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League minutes this season with the first team.
Andrew Gregor had this to say about Brett's recent form:
He's getting in good spots. He understands more of our system. He's a talented player, he thinks more and he's making quick decisions. He stepped up and hit a free kick and played a nice through ball to Victor [Arboleda] on the last goal. We're really pleased with how he's moving along.
And Brett himself on his free kick goal and assist to Arboleda's game winner:
Well, it feels really good. At first, I wanted to curl it around the wall to the near post but I saw they made a gap in the wall, so I just decided that I would go straight through.
It was good for Victor [Arboleda] to get a goal in his first game back. I know his style of play, so I played a ball through to him, he ran onto it and he did well to finish.
Right before he was injured he opened his T2 account with the fastest goal in T2 history so far. Scoring in the 1st minute of the 1-1 draw at Arizona United. Unfortunately, he went out injured very shortly thereafter. But his first few matches with T2 showed that he had speed to burn, making even Belmar look slow in comparison, and was good with his feet. And so he made his return to playing in this match. And what a return it was. Arboleda came back right where he left off, scoring a goal only 4 mins after coming on as a substitute. Showcasing his speed and technical ability to calmly place the ball past the keeper.
In his short time on the field it did not appear the injury hindered his progress at all. And he too made a case that, perhaps of anyone on a T2 contract right now, he could be the top prospect to get a quick 4 day loan up to the first team for some possible US Open Cup minutes, but more likely CONCACAF Champions League minutes.
Andrew Gregor had this to say about Victor Arboleda scoring upon his return:
It's his first game back in a while. It was good to get him involved. Obviously, he impacted the game and he was effective with his pace. He did exactly what we wanted him to do, which was to get behind their backline and finish. It was well rewarded for Victor and what he put in.
USL to Boise
Read the following article if you haven't already. This is a very good, informative article that was released ahead of the game in Idaho. Towards the end there are some comments from Gavin Wilkinson about the potential to bring USL to Boise. And we discuss it at length in the most recent Play The Kids Podcast episode. So go give that a listen to for details on this possibility. The bottom line is that, right now, there is only a little bit of discussion going on with it. And it would be a 2nd USL team located in Boise. T2 itself will not be moving out of Portland. But that is all a big if right now since it is only being tossed around as an idea at this time.
T2 were as high as 5th place until a Sacramento Republic victory bumped them down to 6th place. But it is still really nice to see them in the top half of the table. And the idea will be to stay up there with another home victory this weekend against the 12th place team and on Tuesday against the last place (15th) team.
Coming up next will be a visit from San Antonio FC. Kickoff is at 7:00pm pacific this Saturday, June 11th and T2 are back at Merlo Field for this one. It will be a short turnaround for the good guys as they have another home match on Tuesday, June 14th with a 4:30pm pacific kickoff. The game on the 14th will be part of a doubleheader at Providence Park. T2 plays S2 for the second time this season, at Providence Park again, before the first team Timbers host San Jose in US Open Cup.
T2 will be looking to take advantage of another team coming to play them with scoring deficiencies. Currently with 2 wins in a row for the first time this season, T2's performances continue to improve and the results have been following. It is quite possible for T2, if they can keep up their improvements and not fall back, to secure all 6 points at home. And these last two matches will finish out their 5 game home stand, of which they have 6 out of 9 points so far. It would behoove them to continue to get the results at home, especially against the teams much lower than them in the standings and finish out the home stand with 12 of 15 points and a 4 game win streak.
Against San Antonio FC, T2 will face a team that, like S2 and Swope Park before them, have had scoring troubles as of late (granted Swope Park just had a goal-explosion in the game immediately following their Boise loss, putting 4 goals past Rio Grande Valley, but thankfully we don't have to play them again this season). And with fullbacks that are not known for getting into the attack, T2 can use this to their advantage knowing that they should own the wide areas and not fear too much reprisal from attacking on the flanks.
After San Antonio, it will be S2 again. Just 3 days later and returning to Providence Park. T2 got their first victory and first points against S2, for the first time since both teams joined USL in 2015, just two matches ago. S2 could not finish and the situation hasn't improved much for them either. They scored 2 goals in one game for the first time this season with the return of Andy Craven to their lineup. But then they proceeded to almost immediately give up 5 total unanswered as OC Blues demolished them 5-2. Ideally, T2 show S2 the door with another 5 unanswered in a 5-0 trot before the US Open Cup match but a repeat of the 1-0 victory would suffice as well. Bottom line will be 3 more points against the bottom team so as not to be embarrassed.
The lineup for T2 against S2 could be diminished some if any of the first team loans get chosen to play in the US Open Cup following the game. Or if they decide to quick loan any T2 contracted players up as well. Right now it would seem likely that Neco Brett could miss out and get bumped up to the first team and if Victor Arboleda is able to play 60 minutes or more on Saturday and continue to influence the match like he did, he would be making a strong argument to get a shot at the first team with a 4 day loan stint to get to play the one match. The 18 for T2's match on Tuesday afternoon should pretty much tell us who could end up being on the Timbers 18 against San Jose.
Also a quick shoutout to Pitch Black News. You can also find them on twitter. Your source for all things San Antonio FC related. They are super awesome guys and they had myself and my Play The Kids co-host Josh on their show and it was a ton of fun. That episode should be up tomorrow morning and I'll be sure to update with a link here once it is live. And don't forget to listen to my podcast, Play The Kids!
UPDATE: The Pitch Black News podcast is live. Go over here and choose your preferred method of podcast enjoyment. Then have a listen on the newest episode for our Play The Kids interview!