First things first. Go listen to the most recent episode of Play The Kids. It’s short (35 mins). I’ll wait.
Now, let’s get into it. The Portland Timbers have signed to short-term contracts (read: loaned up for a non-MLS-league game) a total of eleven (yes! 11!) T2 players for tonight’s US Open Cup match vs Seattle.
Here is the press release:
TIMBERS SIGN T2 PLAYERS TO SHORT-TERM AGREEMENTS AHEAD OF TUESDAY’S LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP MATCH
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have signed 11 T2 players to short-term agreements ahead of the club’s fourth-round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Cascadia-rival Seattle Sounders FC at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Wash., on Tuesday, June 13. Beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Pacific), the U.S. Open Cup match against Seattle will feature a live stream on www.timbers.com.
The 11 T2 players signed to short-term agreements include defenders Michael Amick, Lamar Batista, Harold Hanson and Max Ornstil; midfielders Villyan Bijev, Tomás Granitto, Andre Lewis, Terrell Lowe and Omar Mohamed; and forwards Russell Cicerone and Augustine Williams.
MLS clubs may sign players from their USL affiliate to short-term agreements (up to four-day contracts) for Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, Amway Canadian Championship, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and exhibition matches. An MLS club may sign a player to a maximum of four short-term agreements each season (maximum of 16 days). Clubs are not permitted to call up academy players or USL players not signed to professional contracts.
Following the team’s June 13 U.S. Open Cup match, the Timbers will return to league play, traveling to face the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park onSaturday, June 17. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. (Pacific), the match against Colorado will be broadcast live on ROOT SPORTS with local radio broadcasts on 750 AM/102.9 FM The Game (English) and La GranD 1150 AM/93.5 FM (Spanish), beginning at 6:30 p.m. (Pacific).
-- visit www.timbers.com --
What does that all mean for us tonight though? It means that you should expect to see what will likely be a nearly all T2 lineup. Jeff Attinella will be in goal. Jeremy Ebobisse will start at the top. But everyone in between will be regular T2 players or first team loanees that have spent most of the season with T2.
My Predicted XI for this game:
Attinella; Farfan, Amick, Clarke, Hanson; Zemanski, Lewis; Mohamed, Bijev, Arboleda; Ebobisse.
That’s a 4-2-3-1 with Farfan and Mohamed on the left and Harold Hanson & Arboleda on the right. And it would likely leave you with a bench of: McIntosh; Batista, Ornstil, Granitto, Lowe, Cicerone, and Williams.
So outside of Jeff Attinella in goal, you are looking at most of the players who have seen all the minutes with T2 this season. Yes, the season where T2 is currently 1-11-1, with a -15 goal differential, and hands down the worst record in the entire 30 team league. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, just want to be realistic.
There is some hope though. Caleb Porter will be coaching this team, not Andrew Gregor. So a question that arises is: Can Caleb Porter get more out of this group than Andrew Gregor has been able to? I’ve discussed at length this season how T2 has the talent. The challenges have been limiting individual defensive errors that lead to goals, working as a team, and trying to get a non-existent attack to show up. But let’s try to focus on a few positives out there who will likely see some minutes tonight.
My hope is that since Jeremy Ebobisse has finally scored some goals in 2017 (see: World Cup, U-20s) he is in form and can bring that scoring touch back to the club that desperately needs it (I’m talking T2 here). Tonight will be the perfect chance for him to finally show us what he is capable of.
Victor Arboleda & Omar Mohamed
These two are my best guess at the wingers who will flank Ebobisse. Arboleda is more familiar to everyone I’m sure. You know what you are going to get there. Someone with speed and directness. An ability to get behind the defense and take the ball to the end line. With Omar Mohamed you have someone of similar ability. He has shown well with the minutes he has gotten with T2. He can be goal dangerous, I feel like that potential is there, but he will be less direct than Arboleda. He still has pace, provides good width, but likes to cut inside more than going to the end line.
He is still 17. Turns 18 next month. And he is legit. If you go back to last season with T2 and see how Farfan turned out after his first few games, that is Hanson, except Hanson didn’t have the first few games of a learning curve. He was solid from the start. Not exceptional, not “whoa he is the next best thing since sliced bread”. But always solid. In all of his minutes playing for T2 he has made one memorable mistake which lead to a PK (but the poor kid had the sun in his eyes and it was at Starfire and Seattle sucks). But that is what you want out of an outside back, especially one so young. Solid, not out of place, and knows what he is doing. He is defense first, so doesn’t get up in the attack as much as he could. He isn’t fast either, but has the pace to recover if he gets caught up field. I know it doesn’t sound like much. Sounds like he is an average fullback. Sure, but he is fully average at only 17. That means with so much time to grow, he could have quite the potential ahead of him.
Outside of these guys everyone is either familiar or there isn’t enough for me to be positive about right now. Particularly the T2 defense in Rennico Clarke and Lamar Batista. If you haven’t been paying attention neither of these starting CBs for T2 have showered themselves in glory recently.
A few matches ago both were sitting on 4 yellow cards on the season already. In the game vs Tulsa, Clarke had a horrible first half and was subbed off at the break. Batista stayed on but got his 5th yellow card. Following that game, neither CB were seen in the 18. Batista was suspended, but no clue where Clarke was. USL Disciplinary report never said anything about Clarke being retro suspended, no evidence in the Tulsa match showed any sort of potential injury. The next game after that (T2’s loss to Real Monarchs), Batista returned but had himself a stinker of a first half that was so bad it got him subbed off at the half. Clarke? Not in the 18 there either. So I’m less confident about Clarke starting. If he is healthy, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t start. If he doesn’t show up in the 18 then it must be some sort of injury that no one is talking about. Michael Amick has shown very well since his debut when both starting CBs were not in the 18 for T2. Which is why I peg him for a starting spot tonight, especially given Batista’s most recent performance that had him subbed off.
Now, anything is possible. But with the injured players they’ve got and a very busy month in June, it is unlikely Porter takes anyone from the first team with him that doesn’t already see a lot of T2 minutes as a loanee down. And we could see Caleb Porter get more out of these players than Gregor could. But it is probably best to keep those expectations tonight really low.