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T2 Roundup: They Actually Won!

Not only does T2 have a victory already this season (2, actually!) but they out-performed the first team across the same span of five road games. With T2’s two wins so far this season, they are only one single win away from matching their total season wins from 2017.

Five straight road games: 1 draw, 2 wins, 3 shutouts, 7 points. T2 ends their opening road salvo in a playoff position. Even comparing to seasons not as outright awful as 2017, it is still one of their best performances so far. T2 has never achieved two victories this early in the season, let alone two road wins. It has certainly been impressive from the second team, so let’s get into the matches and player performances before I lose myself in more stats about how good they are.

The reason this roundup is only just now coming out is because I wanted to review T2 as a whole, across all five of their road games to open the season. So buckle up as we go long form and see what T2 likes to do this season.

Game 1: at S2/Tacoma - L 2-1

You might have been forgiven if you had only seen the final 5 minutes of the first half or only seen the scoreline and thought “Welp, no surprise there”. But anyone who watched this game had no legitimate reason to think that. T2 showed up to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma where S2 now resides (re-branding of S2 to something Tacoma-ish expected to happen ahead of the 2019 season). It is a new season, with a new head coach and new players. And all the first team loanees (except for Jeremy Ebobisse and Modou Jadama) were kept in Portland. So you had a purely T2 starting XI with a bench of only academy players.

But from the starting whistle, T2 dominated the game. In fact for the first 40 minutes of the game, I don’t know if dominated is a strong enough word. My jaw was on the floor as I watched a T2 side complete passes, string possession, press high, and generally embarrass a rival all over the pitch in their new home. Augustine Williams scored the opening goal of the match (and season) in the 30th minute and T2 probably should’ve had more.

But everything went sideways as the defense fell asleep for the final five minutes of the first half. New T2 signing from the Cosmos, Jimmy Mulligan, who had assisted Williams on his goal. made an error, fouled in the box, and S2 won a clear cut penalty. They converted it in the 43rd minute and got a second audacious goal in the 45th minute just before half time. For a short period of time T2 fell asleep and were punished for it.

Those 5 minutes were all S2 were going to get, but unfortunately were all they’d need. It was the first game of the season so T2’s accuracy was about the only thing that needed work that night. The second half was much like the first. T2 didn’t outright dominate like they did before the break, but for most of the second half they forced S2 to defend for their lives. T2 didn’t get the result they wanted, but for 85 minutes there was significant evidence that this team had thoroughly left 2017 behind them.

Game 2: at Colorado Springs - W 0-1

Colorado Springs’ Weidner Field sits at roughly 6,500 feet elevation, and the pitch makes a cow pasture look good, so it is a difficult place to play. Despite how well T2 played in Tacoma, there wasn’t much expectation for a win at altitude and against a team T2 had yet to get its first win over.

T2 has drawn in Colorado before, and for 80 minutes it was obvious that this was a game between two defenses who refused to make a mistake and would likely end 0-0. But someone did crack. There was a mistake made. And it was punished with a goal. But unlike the years of old, it wasn’t a T2 mistake, it was a T2 goal.

Lamar Batista made his season debut when he subbed on in the 82nd minute. His first action was to fire a shot from the edge of the box that forced the Switchbacks keeper into a parry save. But he made a mistake by parrying the ball right to the feet of Augustine Williams who calmly slotted the ball into an empty net. And T2 would make William’s 2nd goal in two games stand as the game winner.

Game 3: at Real Monarchs SLC - L 4-2

So what happened in this game? We played S2 off the pitch for 85 minutes. We played a supremely strong defensive game for 90 mins in Colorado, punished a single mistake, and left with all 3 points. Why this scoreline?

If you want to feel good, only watch this match from the 33rd minute onward. That is when T2 came out and started to play. I know “tale of two halves” is cliche, but you can look at this game in two distinct sections.

From kickoff to the 35th minute, there was only one team on the pitch. And it was the Monarchs. I don’t think the ball even crossed midfield until the minute clock went double digits. Real Monarchs are a top 2 team in the west without question. And they took T2 to the sword from kickoff. They were up 2-0 by the 7th minute and 3-0 by the 32nd minute. T2 came out asleep, unfocused, and were run off the pitch for it. Even Foster Langsdorf made his professional debut but for the life of me I didn’t even know he was out there until I saw his name come up for having been subbed off at the half.

But once they were down 3-0, T2 decided to play a game of soccer. And for the remainder of the match they looked like the team from the previous two matches. For the most part they played at the level of the Monarchs. Jeremy Ebobisse got T2’s first goal in the 35th minute. He headed the ball at the keeper, who made the save but couldn’t hold onto the ball, and slotted his own rebound into the net. In the second half, playing much better than the first, T2 brought their deficit down to 1 when Victor Arboleda got his first goal of the season from an Andre Lewis through ball. The Monarchs got themselves a 4th goal later on to secure a comfortable victory but like I said, watch the game from the 35th minute to the final whistle and it’ll look like T2 won 2-1.

Game 4: at Tulsa - D 0-0

Here was a team who had 3 red cards in their previous two games, and were outscored 7-2 in those two matches (both at home). They were hurting for anyone they could put into an attacking position (previous match had them use a left back as a striker, who then got one of two red cards in that game). And T2, Salt Lake City notwithstanding, had shown they have a good defense. So this was a game where the expectation was victory by multiple goals.

It didn’t work out that way as Tulsa successfully frustrated a T2 attack that was having a very off night. With 18 shots total, only 2 were on target. Everything T2 sent forward went through Victor Arboleda who had 8 of those 18 total shots. Foster Langsdorf made an ineffective substitute appearance and Kendall McIntosh had to make a world-class, save of the week in the 87th minute. But a road point is a road point. And T2 got their second shutout of the season. So the defense was proving that, as long as they were able to stay focused for 90 minutes, you’ll be hard pressed to score against them.

Game 5: at Oklahoma City Energy - W 0-3

Another unexpected result in T2’s favor. OKC Energy are a team many expect to be a playoff a team. Usually in the upper echelon of the western conference with regularity, OKC Energy would provide another test for T2 facing quality opposition. And they passed with flying colors.

Foster Langsdorf and Lamar Batista both scored their first career goals. Augustine Williams added two assists to his stats and Victor Arboleda got his second goal of the season. T2 started the match on the front foot and never looked back. After a few attempts it was Foster Langsdorf who drew first blood in the 34th minute. Williams put a cross into the box and Langsdorf, having himself a significantly improved performance, caught the ball on the volley and redirected it into the far corner of the net.

In the 54th minute, Williams got Arboleda behind the defense and Victor made no mistake to give T2 a comfortable 2-0 lead. But T2 weren’t finished. Foster Langsdorf got fouled in the box, earned a penalty, and playing in his hometown, Lamar Batista stepped up and converted the penalty to join the “first career goal” club.

A comprehensive performance from T2 saw a focused team for the full 90 minutes. The defense did not allow a single shot on goal from the Energy and the attack saw 7 of 9 total shots get put on target for a wonderful 3 goals. It was easily one of the best performances T2 have had in recent memory.

Players to Watch

When the team does well, there are usually a lot of players to get excited about. And when they don’t do well, not so much. But we want to focus on the loanees and the young players who have a chance to earn a first team contract, because T2 is doing things a little differently this season. They went out and got USL & NASL experience for their defense (Josh Phillips, Jimmy Mulligan, Nathan Smith) but these players are far from old. They are no older than 26, but bring with them multiple seasons of experience in the lower divisions. And this is creating stability and consistency in the defense while still finding time to develop the likes of Modou Jadama and Lamar Batista. Jadama himself spent all of last season in the USL with Tulsa, so he too brings experience T2 lacked in the past. But on a first team contract, he is also a player to be developed.

Carlos Anguiano - Academy

Let’s start with the academy. Carlos Anguiano is an academy midfielder. He made his first appearance subbing on for an injured Terrell Lowe in the first game of the season, playing 63 minutes against S2 and not looking one bit out of place. He followed that up with a start and 90 minutes against Monarchs SLC. He looked better in the S2 match than he did against the Monarchs, which could be due to youthful inconsistency or difference in quality of opponent. Nonetheless, he showed he is an academy talent worth watching and I’m sure it will not be the last time we see him this season.

Lamar Batista & Augustine Williams - T2

On the T2 roster, there are two players who shined in these first five matches. Lamar Batista and Augustine Williams seem to have made a step forward in their development and have goals/assists and generally fantastic performances to show for it. Batista appears to be getting deployed as a full back, primarily on the right side. Which makes for an interesting bit of information to watch in his development. The question is whether that is due to crowded space in the center back position or if the new coaching staff sees more out of Batista as a right back than central defender. Either way, Batista has a psuedo-assist seconds after subbing on, and his first career goal, to show for his performances so far this season. And Augustine Williams needs no introduction. 2 goals, 2 assists in 5 matches. He has been at the heart of T2’s improved attacking performances. With competition coming from loanees Jeremy Ebobisse and Foster Langsdorf, Williams seems to have taken that next step in his development. If he stays consistent and continues to perform like he has, he could very well make someone think he deserves a first team contract. And he’ll be one of the better attacking players in the USL.

Modou Jadama & Foster Langsdorf - Loanees

I’m going to mention Jadama because everyone wants to know that there is a defender getting minutes with T2 that they can feel comfortable with if he needs to step into the first team in an emergency. Well, Jadama is a defender getting minutes with T2 that you should feel comfortable with if he needs to step into the first team in an emergency. He has been clean on and off the ball and helped secure 3 shutouts in five matches. Part of a newly USL-experienced defense, Jadama is on a first team contract to provide depth. His minutes this season will be with T2. He probably isn’t ready to start on an MLS side, but he is close and it is comforting to know that a defender such as himself won’t look out of place if we need to utilize him on the first team.

Foster Langsdorf is a late addition. And solely because of his performance against OKC Energy. I didn’t even know he played against the Monarchs, he was that invisible in the first half. And his substitute appearance in Tulsa left quite a lot to desired. I was able to confirm that he can run around a lot though. So I was beginning to get concerned, as he appeared to need significant improvement just to perform at the USL level, let alone be in the ballpark for MLS minutes sometime down the road. But he stepped up in a big way in Oklahoma City. The difference was night and day. His passing was sharper, his vision and positioning along with his runs made sense. He was in the right place to put away his first career goal. His run late in the game earned a penalty to seal the comfortable victory. It was what I had hoped to see from him in the beginning. So I’m going to say his first two appearances were nerves and adjusting to a new professional team environment. I’ll be watching him to see if his most recent performance is a picture of what’s to come or a fluke.

I’m also going to make special mention of Victor Arboleda. I don’t mention him as someone specifically to watch because his performances have been meeting expectations. He has speed, which he uses to get behind the defense or cut the ball back from the end line. And he has two goals already. He is talented and is at the point where USL might not be enough for him. If he keeps it up and continues to meet expectations then he should be fighting for a first team bench spot sooner rather than later.

Points of Interest, Statistics, and the Future

I just want to reiterate how well T2 have performed, and it has all been on the road. In 2017, I know it was bad; T2 had 3 wins all season. Only 4 shutouts and conceded an average of nearly 2 goals per game (1.97 GAA to be exact). Their road performance in 5 games nearly equals their entire 2017 performance. They have 2 wins, 3 shutouts, and probably the best start they’ve ever had. Their 7 points in 5 games matches 2015’s output but 2015 had home games, these are all on the road, edge: 2018.

The biggest takeaway here is that T2 are currently in a playoff position (8th) after a 5 game road trip. And now they get to return home and play in a place they have seen success (both on the pitch and in attendance): Merlo Field. Probably the best piece of news in the off season was the fact that T2 would return to Merlo Field for almost half of their home games (8 at Merlo, 9 at Providence Park). T2 get to enjoy a 3 game home stand, the first two of which will be at Merlo Field. We won’t talk playoff possibilities. That’s dangerous territory. But what we have here is a T2 team that appears to be playing like a team and not 11 individuals. Cameron Knowles has integrated some USL experience while focusing on specific individuals from the first team and on T2 to develop. All the while still getting some strong academy talent valuable minutes and experience. He has, perhaps surprisingly, found consistency and stability in an inherently fluid situation. We’ve seen both sides of this with two strong shutout wins and one multi-goal loss. There will still be inconsistent performances, that comes with the territory of playing the kids. But with a strong and stable defense, and an attack that seems to be coming into its own, this is shaping up to be a T2 season unlike any other.