Welcome back to T2sday! Your weekly recap of the results and goings-on of Portland Timbers 2, the Timbers reserve team playing in the MLS NEXT Pro reserve league, delivered every Tuesday.
This week: Two more points and new faces
4/24 Portland Timbers 2 vs. Real Monarchs: 1*–1 (T2 wins penalty kick shootout 4–2)
On Sunday, Timbers 2 won a shootout victory over Real Monarchs after a 1–1 draw at Hillsboro Stadium. It was their second shootout win of the season, and it netted them two more points on the year. The game featured the debut of Brazilian forward Nathan Fogaca, a new face to Rose City, and the welcome return of Tega Ikoba, a homegrown first-team forward who has so far been sidelined due to injury.
Despite the game ultimately ending in a draw, T2 enjoyed perhaps their best offensive game of the season. The fired off 19 shots during the match, including 10 shots on target. The play of the Monarchs’ goalkeeper, Tomas Gomez, was perhaps the only thing keeping the visitors in the game.
T2 increased their offensive output in the first half, but it ended scoreless. The real action started in the second half, when the high press of Real Monarchs forced a turnover in the defensive third, and forward Pedro Fonseca curled in the opener.
T2 would waste little time responding however, as Selmir Miscic collected a well played through ball from Nathan in the 55th minute. Miscic squared the ball in the box to the onrushing Blake Bodily, who slid home the equalizer.
In the 78th minute, Ikoba subbed on to make his first appearance this season. It was an encouraging moment for a forward with a bright future and something that bodes well for the first team (more on that in a second).
T2 nearly found a winner a minute later, when a thunderous strike from Bodily pinged off the cross bar. Three minutes later, T2 found themselves down a man as midfielder Victor Griffith was shown a second yellow card for delaying a free-kick restart from the Monarchs.
The home side managed to hold on until the end of regulation with the game ending at one-all. For the second time this season, T2 would compete for an extra point in a penalty kick shootout.
The turning point in the shootout was when Hunter Sulte came up big to block Real Monarchs’ third kick. The visitors had missed their previous attempt, and Sulte’s save put T2 right on the precipice of prevailing in penalties.
Two rounds later, T2 would make good on that — and it was Ikoba who stepped up to score the final and decisive penalty to give T2 the shootout victory.
The shootout win brings T2 to four points on the season through four games played. T2 still has yet to win an MLS NEXT Pro game in regulation.
The Significance of Nathan’s Signing and Ikoba’s Return
Last week, just days before their match against Real Monarchs, T2 announced the signing of Brazilian forward Nathan Fogaca. The 22-year-old — who, in true Brazilian player fashion, goes just by his first name — previously spent time in the Brazilian second division with Coritiba, and plays as a pure attacker, usually as a center forward.
Nathan wasted little time in showing his quality in his debut. He rung the post with one of T2’s best chances of the first half, and he also had a hand in T2’s equalizer, playing the ball through to Miscic. He then nailed the first spot-kick of the shootout, setting the tone for T2’s triumph.
His debut gives a window into a few of the reasons T2 signed him. Nathan spent the 2021 season on loan with USL Championship side San Antonio FC, where he banged in 13 goals and tallied four assists in 34 appearances. He has a goal-scoring pedigree and experience playing in the American soccer pyramid — both qualities that can benefit T2 in the short and long term.
Those qualities, combined with the fact that T2 signed him to a two-year deal, suggest that he may be a player the Timbers organization is high on, and someone who they may have identified as a candidate for a player that could perhaps develop into a first-team contributor down the road.
Speaking of forwards developing, not only was Sunday Nathan’s debut, it was also the first minutes for first-team homegrown forward Tega Ikoba. Ikoba had been out with an unspecified abdomen injury through the latter part of MLS preseason and the start of the year. It was very encouraging to see him not only get back onto the field, but also have an immediate effect by way of nailing the final penalty to seal the extra point for T2.
With the first team offense still misfiring, and no reinforcements coming on the horizon soon, the quicker Ikoba gets back to form, the sooner he may have a chance to make a real effect at the next level. He, of course, won’t be rushed back, but hopefully he will continue to get more and more minutes, and we can all cross our fingers to see him on a first-team gameday roster before too long.
With Nathan in the fold and Ikoba on the road to full fitness, T2 is achieving two of its goals of trying to develop potential first-team contributors, as well as helping players already pegged to contribute get back up to speed.
- In addition to the Fogaca signing last week, this week T2 announced the signing of 2022 SuperDraft pick Sivert Haugli to a one-year deal — and then promptly loaned him to USL Championship side Phoenix Rising for the 2022 season. T2 can recall him at any point.
- Selmir Miscic has quietly grown to become a key offensive cog for T2. He is tied for the second-highest scoring attempts (6), has been one of the more consistent attacking threats, and tallied his first assist of the season on Sunday. A product of the vaunted Philadelphia Union academy system, T2 acquiring him could prove to be quite the boon if he continues to develop and contribute.
- What goes through Blake Bodily’s mind before he attempts a penalty kick? According to him, it’s pretty straightforward: “I don’t know, just make sure I score. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
T2 are next in action on May 1, when they travel to Colorado to face Colorado Rapids 2 at 11 a.m. Pacific.