The first ten minutes of the hot and hazy match was difficult to watch for anyone excited about the offensive lineup: They saw almost none of the ball. Orange County played a high press, and the Timbers 2 squad struggled to maintain possession, much less get the ball into the opponent’s half.
The few times the ball did make it to the attacking players, it was clear that Conechny, Melano, Langsdorf and Loria are still developing an understanding—which is to say that they lost the ball a lot.
Despite a couple of nice saves from Kendall McIntosh and hard defensive work from Lamar Batista and the rest of the back line, OC’s pressure finally paid off in the ninth minute as they crossed the ball across the Timber’s box to a completely open OC player who easily knocked it in. Very reminiscent of goals the Timbers have been conceding recently.
In the 19th minute, Zambrano brought the ball up from the right to Melano at the top of the box, who dove into the ball, but it veered just right of target.
Next, a chorus of car alarms filled-in for the lack of typical attendance (due to the smoke).
The first real team effort came in the 22nd minute. Lewis intercepted the ball at the top of the T2 box and passed it out to Loria on the left. Loria dribbled the ball up into the attacking third before passing off to Melano, who drove towards the top of the box and passed wide to Conechny on the right. As Melano pulled a defender away in a run towards the box, Conechny dribbled back across the top of the box before crossing to Loria—still on the left—who then put a ball onto the far end of the box for a waiting Langsdorf, whose header went wide.
In the 27th, Zambrano’s sliding tackle disposesses Aiden Quinn of OC, knocking the ball up field to Melano. Wanting the ball back, Quinn recklessly takes down Melano, earning a yellow card. How about this: Melano waved at the ref and got right up! Is it the beard?
By minute 30, the team was getting much more of the ball as communication and understanding began to improve. A few exciting interplays eventually fizzled out, however. Loria drove past defenders to the top of the box and laid off a ball to Melano, who was well-positioned on the right side of OC’s box. Before he could receive, turn and shoot, an OC defender knocked the ball out for a throw-in.
In the 38th minute, a 50/50 ball knocked just into the Timber’s half of the field was headed back by T2’s Nathan Smith, rolling perfectly parallel the sideline past three defenders as Langsdorf trailed just behind. Conechny ran across the ball’s path and got a slight touch on the ball, setting it up for Langsdorf, who merely needed to continue his run and blast it past the keeper into the net—he hit it right at Orange County’s keeper instead, and out for a T2 corner. The corner resulted in a Zambrano shot just wide of goal, and some nice footwork by Melano.
The momentum seemed to swing in T2’s favor by this point, as OC began to make some bad giveaways and had trouble making it up the field.
I’ve noticed Conechny just up from the top-middle of OC’s box multiple times, wide open and gesturing for the ball, but his teammates keep opting to cross instead. He may be feeling a little frustrated.
But the frustration may have just been sated as, after impressive interplay from Lewis in the center out to Batista in the attacking left and then across to Loria and Zambrano, Conechny received the ball on the right, dribbled towards the box, passed to Melano at the top of the box for a give-and-go which ended in a powerful shot just right of the net. He can kick!
In the 44th minute, Melano, channelling 2015 MLS Cup Final Valeri, runs at the keeper, who stands with the ball trying to decide which foot to kick it with. Melano is so surprised at the lack of reaction that he runs right by the keeper, but his pressure, combined with Loria’s, forces two poor passes until the ball smacks right into the chest of Lewis, just at the top of OC’s box. Lewis quickly touches it over to Langsdorf, who kindly passes it across the top of the box to Conechny. The kid takes just a fraction of a second to stop the ball, wind up and smash it past a sliding defender and diving keeper for his first goal in green and gold. He’s definitely not frustrated anymore.
At the half, the teams were close in shots, but Orange County had nearly 60% of the possession. Melano, playing 30 minutes last week and 45 today, comes off for Jeremy Ebobisse.
Right away, the team comes out with more energy, working just as hard off the ball as Orange County. Conechny and Ebobisse play off each other and almost get the ball through to Langsdorf, but it was cut off. Langsdorf then chases the ball down and knocks it back towards his defensive half to Lewis, who works it around to the left instead, finding Batista. Driving up the to the side of the box, his attempted cross goes out. It was a great opening minute of aggressive possession, however.
Right away, Lewis gets the ball back and knocks it up to Loria, who dummies it inside the defender as he circles around with his pace. Bringing it all the way to the top of the box, he places a perfect pass to the open feet of Langsdorf, who has time to turn and curl a shot just over the keeper and onto the top of the net—very close indeed.
An OC counter in the 50th minute succeeds in putting the ball in the net, but is quickly called offside.
A Kendall McIntosh blast lands perfectly for Langsdorf in OC’s half in the 54th minute. Conechny starts dashing up the right, wide open. As Langsdorf turns to pass to him, he’s taken down by the lone defender on that side. A whistle can be heard and play stops, but for some reason the ref is not calling the foul, and in fact says he didn’t blow his whistle. This is one of the most dangerous opportunities T2 has had in the half, and Langsdorf loses his cool all over the ref’s personal space. A yellow card shoots out of the ref’s front pocket, and Langsdorf wisely turns around and mutters away.
To make matters even more confusing and inexplicable, the ref then grants the foul and Zambrano steps up to take it, but they wind up playing it short and cycling it back around. It makes its way up to Loria, who shoots and goes out for a corner. Then Loria earns T2 another corner straight away.
The ref calls a foul on Zambrano, who was standing five feet away from the OC player who fell over at the halfway line. Once again confusing.
There was no mistake when, shortly after, Conechny slides through an opponent from behind. He is lucky to get away with just a yellow.
Loria is getting the ball up the field again and again as the game opens up.
The water breaks are officially called “air quality advisory” breaks. Surprised they’re not brought to us by an N95 respirator mask producer or something.
OC comes out after the break swinging in the 64th minute, and quickly earned a kick ten yards back from the right corner of T2’s box. The ball is hit in near-corner, bouncing just in front of Kendall McIntosh. As a passing OC player flicks it on towards goal, McIntosh makes a ninja-like reflex save, deflecting it back into the box only to be tapped past him for a goal.
Nat Borchers, adding color commentary on the broadcast, needs to be a little more of a homer as he remarks how nice is was for OC to have scored.
Excellent interplay between Loria and Conechny gets the ball as far as OC’s box in the 68th minute, but Ebobisse is unable to receive it for the shot.
The ref lets a lot of contact go, first to the chagrin and shin pain of Conechny, and in the 73rd minute to the benefit of Portland as Loria went through the foot of a defender to regain possession, knocking the player over. Driving towards goal, he sees Andre Lewis point to the space in front of himself as he runs towards open space at the top of the box, and places a perfect pass. As Lewis runs onto the ball and makes to shoot, he is tripped from behind and T2 are given a free kick just inside the semicircle at the center of the box.
Loria curls it over the wall but the keeper tips it over. On the ensuing corner, Lewis shoots high.
Once again, T2’s strong momentum is broken by an air quality advisory break.
Fortunately, in the 79th minute, they will their way back into the game. Zambrano shuttles the ball up-field and passes it to the feet of Ebobisse, who is quickly dispossessed as he turns. Rather than giving up, he turns around and slides into the ball, kicking it over to Loria with enough space to pause, look, pause some more, and place a perfect ball over the heads of almost every OC defender and right to the well-timed run of Langsdorf, who heads it past the OC keeper to tie the game.
It’s minute 80 and Conechny is still pressing players like it’s the start of the game—in smoky conditions.
In the 85th minute, an OC cross into the box becomes a goal as Modou Jadama loses his footing while marking the goalscorer.
Once again fighting for the tie, T2 have three exciting attacks in quick succession around the 86th-87th minutes, narrowly missing the equalizer.
Jack Barmby comes on for right wingback Nathan Smith in the 88th, and OC take their time making a substitution of their own.
T2 is all over OC. OC is all over Conechny, but the kid keeps shaking off the knocks.
Timbers 2 really deserved the third goal at the end, but the ref blows the whistle. Game over. They seemed to play their best football today when they were trying to equalize.
I want to see Loria spell Valeri on the first team.
Andre Lewis worked hard in the 6 role. He needs to become Chara’s padawan. He is showing all of the skills and tendencies Chara has, but to lesser degrees. Needs to work on the smile, most of all.
Melano has really filled out physically. The new Melano is capable of persistent pressing in some of the worst air quality conditions in the world. The first team could use some of that, and is ideal for Gio’s desired high-press style of play which we are currently incapable of handling.
Langsdorf is a real nice guy. He had a solid shot on goal, but opted to give it to Conechny.
Adian Diz Pe is a solid central defender. Keep an eye on him.
Conechny really grew into the game. By the end he was dancing and shielding and turning around players while on the ball, in addition to his dogged pressing off the ball. He’s only going to get better with understanding. I want to see more of him on the first team.
Zambrano should be starting for the Timbers in place of Olum and Guzman.
Is this overly-detailed T2-centric play-by-play something you’d like to see for T2 games in the future? If so, let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!