It's been ugly for T2. And it got uglier when Los Dos came to town. Let's recap the past two matches.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC: 1-1 Draw
As a stand alone match, a 1-1 draw against the Switchbacks (and the first point ever taken from the team) is a good result. But when it is the only point out of the last 5 matches (L L L D L), it's merely a respite from the winless streak building up.
Switchbacks' captain Luke Vercollone opened the scoring nice and early in the 16th minute and made T2 chase the game for the remainder of the match. But T2 were able to get the draw and the point when Belmar was able to tap in a goalkeeping error in the 87th minute. The Switchbacks' keeper made a good save on a strong effort by T2 but his clearance felt right upon the feet of Belmar, who only had to react first and put the ball past the shocked keeper. A goal you always want your strikers putting away, Belmar got back onto the score sheet and T2 got the point.
LA Galaxy II: 4-1 Loss
Los Dos came to town and routed the home side as they dominated just about all of the match over T2. Los Dos went up 2-0 on two set piece plays in the 6th and 18th minutes. The lone bright spot in the first half was defender Rennico Clarke putting one away to bring it back to a one goal game in the 35th minute. Unfortunately, that didn't last long as LA II made it a 3-1 game 4 mins later and made that stand until halftime.
Los Dos were only able to score one last goal in the second half, in the 75th minute, to bring the game to what would be the final score. But T2 were of no threat to put anything in the net in the second half. After getting 8 shots off in the first half, 6 of which were impressively on target and forced 5 saves out of LA II keeper Clement Diop, T2 only got 4 off in the second half, 0 of which were on frame. It did not help that Rennico Clarke was sent off early in the second half for getting a second yellow card in the 53rd minute. After that, LA II pretty much cruised the rest of the match and toyed with the home side till the final whistle blew.
And the ref was very card happy. Whistling 41 total fouls in the match between both teams and giving out 9 total yellow cards, you would think it was a physical and chippy match. It really wasn't that much more physical than usual. There were chippy moments, but mainly the ref took it upon himself to whistle for just about every slight contact and give yellow cards on the softest plays. Clarke's second yellow was hardly a foul let alone another yellow making him ejection worthy. But despite an extremely poor performance from the center official, T2 couldn't find their way into the game at all and could not recover from the early two goal deficit.
Remainder of the Season
T2 only has 3 home games left this season. One of which is against Colorado Switchbacks again. And unless T2 moves the match to make another double header, will kickoff at nearly the same time as the first team kicks off against CD Dragon in the CCL. All the remaining games will be on the road. And given how low in the table T2 is right now, all will be against teams above them in the standings. It will be a very difficult proposition to get points as the 2016 season draws to a close.
Midfield weaknesses should be improved with the return of Dylan Damraoui from injury. And Nick Besler also made the bench vs LA II, so hopefully he is nearing a return to the starting XI. But a suspension to Clarke and a subpar performance from McIntosh will not provide the team with confidence as they head north to Tukwila this Sunday.
With the sad, but expected announcement of Kwarasey's transfer away from Portland, Jake Gleeson has secured the #1 keeper spot for the first team. Which is really, really neat when you think about it. We've developed him since 2010 when he was a part of the undefeated U-23s, he won a USL championship in 2014 when he was loaned to Sacramento Republic, and now, 6 years later he earned the #1 spot.
It's about as close as we can really get, right now, to having a player we've developed from the get go and secure a starting XI spot with the first team. Hopefully there are many more like him to come as our academy system continues to develop and grow, and thus begin to produce players.
How will this affect T2? With the departure of Kwarasey the team is actively searching for a veteran keeper to backup Jake Gleeson. Wade Hamilton is not at all prepared to backup Gleeson. So as soon as the team secures their #2 keeper, Hamilton should return to T2 post haste, in order to continue his development as the team's #3. Which, unfortunately, will relegate McIntosh to the T2 bench. Not counting the last match against Los Dos, he has been very good for T2 between the sticks.
T2 travel to Tukwila to face Sounders 2. Third match of four, first of two in Tukwila, against S2 this season. One of the many road trips they must finish out the season with. The problem will be that S2 are a resurgent side. Passing T2 on the USL western conference table for the first time all season. As T2's last 5 results have been L L L D L, S2 is on a three game unbeaten run with a L L D W W form bringing them confidence not only at home but also in form and momentum as they prepare for this "rivalry" match.
What could be to the benefit of T2 will be the fact that the Timbers play first this weekend. That means that the first team can ship any bench players they don't use against the LA Galaxy on Saturday to T2 for Sunday. It's only a possibility, but should be a valid one. Anyone who doesn't play any minutes should be fresh and able to travel with the team for the Sunday evening match at Starfire.
The two biggest candidates for such a possibility would be keeper Wade Hamilton and right back Taylor Peay. But there would also be a chance of Okugo in the 18 in the first team and then starting for T2 again. So if T2 can benefit from playing after the first team and get some loaned guys then its entirely possible we see a back five of Hamilton, Peay, Okugo, Gallagher, Klute to start against S2. Gallagher will return from his yellow card accumulation suspension and will be needed with Clarke out on a suspension now. Hopefully the midfield will be improved against S2 as well. I'd like to see Damraoui start and get 60 minutes with hopefully Nick Besler returning to protect the back line. But the front three should be pretty much set in stone with Belmar flanked by Brett and Arboleda.
A real hot take possibility would be sending newest left back signing Vytas down to T2 in order to develop match fitness. I highly doubt it actually happens but that is always a slim possibility as well. A big reason why predicting the XI for T2 is very challenging.