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T2 Roundup: Challenge Accepted

bennett dewan

In my previous T2 Roundup, I specifically mentioned the next three games (Sacramento at Home, St Louis away, S2 away) would provide more challenges for T2 to overcome. The second team stepped up in a big way and went 2-0-1 in those three matches. Let’s dig in.

Sacramento Republic - W 2-0

POR: Asprilla 16’; Jadama (Williamson) 38’

At the time of their visit, Sacramento were undefeated, and had yet to be held scoreless. T2 decided to change all of that by picking up their 4th shutout and handing Sacramento their first loss. T2 struck early when Batista got a cross into the box that found its way to Asprilla. Dairon knocked the ball down and tapped in from close range.

T2 kept up the pressure while Sacramento were off-kilter, and after a handful of solid chances, got a 2nd goal before the break. Eryk Williamson provided an accurate corner kick to the far post that met the head of onrushing and unmarked Modou Jadama. Jadama headed the ball down with authority past the Sacramento keeper and got his first goal for T2.

The second half was a great example of how T2 are learning to manage and maintain game states. After giving up two late goals in each of their previous two matches at Merlo Field, T2 kept focused and maintained their two goal lead to secure all three points and the shutout.

St Louis FC - D 0-0

T2 went 2-1-0 at home before having to get back on the road for a pair of games against St Louis FC and Seattle Sounders 2. They brought home 4 points from the road trip and two additional shutouts.

David Guzman, Vytas, and Bill Tuiloma all started the game for T2 to gain recovery minutes in their return to match fitness. St Louis had yet to score more than a single goal in any of their games and were also very strong defensively. With T2 having first team defensive reinforcements, you could tell in the first three minutes of the match this was destined to end in a scoreless draw.

Similar to the Colorado Springs away game, this match was a battle of who would make a defensive mistake first. But unlike the Colorado Springs game, neither side made any worthwhile mistakes and each were able to shutout the other. This resulted in St Louis getting their fourth shutout of the season and T2 getting their tied-for-league-leading fifth shutout.

Seattle Sounders 2 - W 1-0

POR: Williamson (Arboleda) 90+2’

Ahead of the big 100th match, the Cascadian second teams faced each other (for the 2nd time already this season) at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington. Unlike the season opener, T2 were able to keep focused and not have any momentary mental lapses. As such, it appeared they were going to get another shutout and another road point.

In the first half, T2 were once again the better side and threatened early with a volleyed attempt by Jimmy Mulligan in the 9th minute and a long range shot from Renzo Zambrano in the 24th minute. A few near chances in the second half saw T2 continue their dominance but their northern neighbors held the line.

It wouldn’t be enough though, as keeper Alex Mangels (stepping in for injured Kendall McIntosh) sent a long ball forward with only five seconds left before the two minutes of stoppage time would be up. The long ball fell to Arboleda on the left wing and Victor was able to get to it and send it across the middle of the six-yard box. Eryk Williamson, making a run out of midfield, was able to get on the end of the cross and put it into the back of the net with the final kick of the game.

Williamson’s first professional goal is the latest goal scored for T2 in their four season history. Alex Mangels secured his first and the team’s still-tied-for-league-leading sixth shutout.

Players to Watch

Stock Up

Eryk Williamson: The Williamson-Zambrano midfield pairing continues to impress. With an assist and his first pro goal, Williamson’s stock continues to rise. I’m hesitant to assume he will get MLS minutes this season. However if something bad happens injury or form wise and the first team has to bring him up for depth, they should feel confident he’ll be able to do a job similar to Ebobisse’s 317 minutes last season. In the meantime, more of what he is doing with T2 please.

Marvin Loria: Impressive, aggressive, and smart in his first start against Sacramento. He seemed hungry and eager to impress. I wanted to see more of him but he only got a substitute appearance against St Louis. He found himself back in the XI and played all 90 minutes against S2 where he helped provide danger from the wide areas opposite Arboleda.

Holding Steady

Foster Langsdorf: He continues to develop at a rate very similar to Marco Farfan’s first season with T2. This is good because Farfan has become a valuable depth piece for the first team. As long as Langsdorf continues this path at this rate, he can find himself a valuable depth piece for the first squad.

Modou Jadama: Impressed against Sacramento and got his first goal for T2. He nearly scored doing the exact same thing on a corner kick versus St Louis but his header went a little wide. He is a huge part of T2’s success in the back. With the confidence of a strong defense, the offense can get in and try to earn the squad all three points.

Lamar Batista: I’m still in love with him as a left back. It just seems to work. He can still play center back when called upon, and this positional flexibility increases his value to the organization.

Stock Down

I would be seriously digging trying to find someone to put here. The defensive has things locked down, the offense is scoring enough goals to get 7 points out of 9 available. Right now it appears everything with this side is clicking unlike anything before in their 4 seasons of existence.

Points of Interest

The above chart should say it all. T2 have more of everything than they did in 2017: Wins, Points, Shutouts, Happy fans, and Victories over S2. In context, 2017 seems more of an outlier compared to the other seasons. If T2 continue the fantastic work they’ve been doing, they are on pace to secure a mid-range playoff seed.

One of the only victories T2 had in 2017 was a 2-0 road win in Sacramento. The Republic came to visit Providence Park on an undefeated streak to start their season and T2 put 2 past them again. Expect Sacramento to be out for revenge when T2 visit in September.

As impressive as the T2 defense has been, the first team is starting to catch some of that as well. Both squads are currently on streaks of 3 consecutive shutouts. I’m more impressed with T2 though having 60% of their matches so far end without a goal against. Whatever has both sides performing well defensively, long may it continue.

Up next for T2: LA Galaxy II, this Friday at 11:00am. Why 11:00am? It’s Providence Health & Fitness Day! Portland area students flock to Providence Park for a day of healthy activities, education, and a soccer match. As for Los Dos, prior to their last match, I would’ve felt they were a pushover. They scored 2 goals combined in their first seven matches. But they put 3 past Phoenix in a 4-3 loss and sent St Louis home disappointed by scoring a pair of hat tricks. Ethan Zubak and, more impressively, 15-year-old Efrain Alvarez who became the youngest player to score a hat trick in USL history put more goals past St Louis than Los Dos had so far in the season combined. T2’s defensive strengths will be put to the test with a suddenly on form Los Dos attack. The bright side is, despite scoring 9 goals, the Galaxy II allowed 7. As on form as their attack might be, they still have glaring weaknesses in the back.

Four days later, T2 host Bundesliga.2 side FC St Pauli. If you love soccer, go watch this game. This Friday, be on the lookout for an immensely special Play The Kids episode celebrating the clubs and culture of FC St Pauli and the Portland Timbers.