Going into this weekend, T2 had matched the best start this team has ever had, back in 2015, with the difference being that in 2015 the two wins that T2 mustered were at home, while in 2018 it was all on the road. If not for five minutes in Tacoma and 30 in Sandy, Utah, T2 might have come back with a few more points. Now the road trip and impressive start is behind them. T2 returned to a familiar, and missed, home: University of Portland’s Merlo Field.
Both of their opponents, Rio Grande Valley and Reno 1868, arrived in Portland winless in the season so far. With T2 looking like a good, competitive side in USL, how did they fare against the winless teams?
Game 6: Rio Grande Valley Toros FC - W 3-2
This game was more “exciting” at the end than it needed to be, but T2 secured their third victory of 2018 and a home-opener win over RGV Toros. It was the visitors who drew first blood, opening the scoring in the 30th minute. Following a corner, RGV’s Omar Ontiveros jumped higher than his mark, Julio Cascante, and headed the ball past Kendall McIntosh at the far post.
Despite going into the break down a goal, this iteration of T2 does not make you feel like they will be lucky to pull a draw out of their hat. T2’s performances, even in their losses, instills confidence that they have the ability to get results they would not have achieved in previous years.
Following home-opening wins from the Timbers and Thorns, T2 would not be denied and found a higher gear in the second half. T2 came out strong in the second half, and Jeremy Ebobisse got his second goal of the season in the 56th minute (which you can see and vote for in the USL Goal of the Week for Week 6) with a wicked side volley from just outside the six yard box. Second-half substitute Jack Barmby converted a penalty kick he earned in the 61st minute to give T2 the lead, while Foster Langsdorf put away his second goal in two matches with the eventual game-winner in the 68th minute.
Langsdorf’s second career goal was assisted by a fantastic cross sent in from fellow academy product Terrell Lowe. Langsdorf was able to get on the end of the cross and head the ball in from close range. Throughout the match, T2’s fullbacks were sending in particularly strong, quality crosses that the attack was having difficulty getting on the end of—but both non-penalty goals came as a result of finally being in the right place and getting on to the end of the crosses.
RGV turned up the heat after allowing three unanswered goals from a dominant home side that was putting them in their place. As the match wound down, RGV threw the kitchen sink at T2 and were able to draw a penalty of their own in the 81st minute. An RGV player was dribbling away from goal, towards the corner flag, and in the brief moment he crossed just inside the very corner of the T2 box, defender Terrell Lowe clipped his foot and the player easily went down. The referee pointed to the spot without hesitation, and RGV converted to bring them within one goal of a result.
RGV continued to try to find an equalizer with a good portion of their shots on frame coming in the final 15 minutes of the match. But T2 and Kendall McIntosh held firm. Emotions got the better of both sides at the end of regulation time, when RGV’s Zaldivar went into a full sprint to try to get to a ball in the box before Kendall McIntosh. McIntosh got his hands on the ball first and Zaldivar, sliding in studs up, had too much momentum to stop himself. In the end his feet missed McIntosh but his knee went into the keeper’s face. Both teams came together and Zaldivar was given a second yellow for the sloppy challenge and sent off. Lamar Batista was also given a second yellow card for his desire to protect his teammate and getting involved in the pushing and shoving. Both sides ended with 10 men once the final whistle blew.
Game 7: Reno 1868 FC - L 2-1
The next winless team to grace the pristine grass at Merlo Field was Reno 1868 FC. Unfortunately, when they pushed for a result at the end, T2 weren’t able to withstand the pressure and dropped a result in frustrating fashion.
Reno came out ready to play fast and hard. Committed in their tackles, Reno appeared to enact a plan of disruption, doing anything they could to prevent T2 from gaining momentum, and for a good portion of the first half it was working. T2 adjusted about 35 minutes in and were able to break the deadlock in the 38th minute with Victor Arboleda’s third goal of the season. Arboleda intercepted a back pass meant for the final defender between himself and goal, then blew past the defender and slotted the ball past the keeper with speed and precision.
The remainder of the first half was all in favor of T2, with Foster Langsdorf nearly scoring in the 42nd minute when he forced the Reno keeper into a clutch save following a long-range cracker of a shot. T2 would end up regretting the missed chances, particularly the Langsdorf shot, in the second half.
Reno, perhaps watching RGV in the match before, cranked it up to 11, increasing the fouls and disruption and trying to match T2 for pressure and output. For most of the second half, T2 continued to be the better side. By about the 70th minute, the home side was losing energy and succumbing to the pressure of a desperate, winless Reno side.
The away side’s desperation paid off in the 75th minute, when Daniel Musovski put away the equalizer following a scramble in the box. At this point a draw would have been an acceptable result, but Reno wasn’t going to have it. Musovski struck again in the 89th minute for the game winner, tucking away a ball that flashed across the face of goal. His two late goals won him the USL Player of the Week for Week 6 and the ire of the home fans that evening.
Players to Watch
It could be that we end up seeing a lot of the same faces in this section, but let’s continue to monitor how some of the players are doing now that they have a pair of home games under their belts.
Eryk Williamson: In particular, he has been showing how calm and controlled he is in the midfield. Last T2 roundup, I mentioned that in his first game he seemed to be more of an attacking presence than anything else, but in the past few games he has settled into a solid box-to-box #8 role. He is linking up exceptionally well with his midfield partner, Renzo Zambrano. Between the two, T2 has a strong midfield at the USL level. Williamson is the one who shows currently that he may not be too far off from making the jump to MLS, though.
Victor Arboleda: Got his third goal to take the team lead over Williams, Ebobisse, and Langsdorf (all with two goals). T2 has a tendency to funnel their attack through Arboleda, becoming a one-trick pony when they do. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Arboleda might be the best attacking piece T2 has in a basket with Augi Williams, Jeremy Ebobisse, Foster Langsdorf, and Darixon Vuelto. Cameron Knowles has tough choices to make in getting all these talented attacking pieces minutes.
Foster Langsdorf: Continues to improve after his first two games, where he left a lot to be desired. The Reno match could have been a different story if he put away his shot in the 42nd minute, but it was still a quality shot on frame that forced a save from the keeper. His improvement really makes it difficult to get everyone who deserves minutes on the pitch at the same time.
Augustine Williams: Understandably left on the bench in the mid-week game with extra first-team reinforcements; inexplicably left on the bench in the weekend game with a short turnaround between matches. Still one of the best attacking pieces for T2 in the early part of this season. Subbed on in the second half against Reno but couldn’t help pull the game back in favor of the home side.
Terrell Lowe: It’s harder to single out anyone with T2 playing as a team instead of 11 individuals, meaning rough results fall upon everyone as opposed to one or two bad players. Lowe is far from bad, but still makes the mistakes of youth, and there is room for improvement. Provided the assist to Langsdorf, but also gave up a soft PK allowing RGV to have a late ray of hope.
Points of Interest
The home opener saw T2 get their third win of the season. In six games they already equaled the total wins from 2017 in 32 games. In addition, the 10 points through seven games is already two-thirds the season total from 2017. I know it is beating a dead horse, but despite the frustrating Reno result, this T2 side is like nothing we’ve seen before. Obviously 2018 will be better than last season.
USL scheduling sucks. Two home games three days apart, and then a bye week, followed by a home and away game just three days apart. With a Timbers bye week this weekend, it would’ve been a good opportunity to have T2 play and let others see what all the fuss is about this season. At least the Thorns still play this weekend so we all still have some top-class Portland soccer to watch.
The next opponent, Sacramento Republic, is one of the last teams who have yet to lose a game. Sacramento host Western Conference bottom-dwellers Tulsa Roughnecks this weekend, so it is likely they will still be undefeated when they come to town. Sacramento have been disappointed in the past against T2 (one of the only wins in 2017 by T2 was a 2-0 away win in Sacramento). The soccer gods also love a good trap game. If T2 want a result they will need to bring their shooting boots and be vigilant in limiting (if not eliminating) mistakes in defense.
T2 have challenges ahead of them: Sacramento Republic at Providence Park on Wednesday, May 2nd, followed by a road trip to St Louis FC Saturday, May 5th, before they return to Tacoma on Saturday May 12th to face S2 again.