Timbers 2 sure love late drama.
From two stoppage-time equalizers to two goals conceded in four minutes, the past month has been a whirlwind of late results for T2. Now just a week after a demoralizing defeat in the desert, the Timbers USL outfit flipped the script on the visitors as they found a way to snatch an important home point as they drew the Tulsa Roughnecks 1-1 at Providence Park on Saturday night.
Todd Wharton scored the lone goal for T2 as the Roughnecks saw two players see red in the final five minutes of the game. You can find our official recap here.
Rodrigo Da Costa (14’)
It didn’t take long for Tulsa to get on the board in the first half. Early on, they were content with sitting back and allowing T2 to possess the ball. However, once they started to bring their line of confrontation up, they managed to generate many more dangerous chances. The first of those chances came in the 14th minute.
After being fouled near midfield, Tulsa took the start-up quickly and worked the ball down the right side. The ball eventually made its way to Cristhian Altamirano at the edge of the box who played a ball to Da Costa at the back post. T2 defender Harold Hanson lost his footing and slipped in the box as the Roughnecks midfielder made his cut, and all he had to do was send the ball into the roof of the net unmarked.
Todd Wharton (90+5’)
Just when it looked like T2 had suffered another demoralizing home result, something odd happened: they were awarded a penalty. In the 95’ T2 were awarded a throw-in, most likely their final offensive chance of the game. The ball was thrown toward Nathan Smith, and as he attempted to control the ball, Tulsa midfielder Fredlin Mompremier came in with two extremely high boots which caught Smith’s chest. In the dying seconds, T2 was awarded a penalty.
Captain, Todd Wharton, calmly stepped up to the spot and scored his fourth goal of the year as T2 salvaged yet another point in the dying moments. The goal now stands as the latest ever scored in T2 history.
Playing through the midfield
With Tulsa sitting near the bottom of the table in the west, T2 came into the game with the goal of dominating possession and the tempo. Early on they looked okay as their press did a pretty good job of stifling anything the Roughnecks wanted to do. By the end of the night, the home team had most of the possession (55.9 percent) and shots (13 to 10). However, for a team wanting to dictate the game, they stayed away from the midfield throughout the majority of the game.
Dominating the midfield is the key to unlocking the opposition’s defense, especially against a team like Tulsa who was content with sitting back. Yes, T2 has a lot of talented wingers and outside backs that can help progress the game, but that’s exactly what the Roughnecks wanted. T2 fired in 35 crosses, and just 14.3 percent of them were successful. When the ball wasn’t being progressed out wide, the defenders would just loft a direct ball towards the attack and try to bypass the midfield altogether.
When it came to trying to play through the middle, their biggest threat came through Carlos Anguiano. Playing as what looked like a number eight (or box-to-box midfielder), the young Oregonian dropped back into the defensive line as Hanson pushed up. From there, Anguiano would take the ball and use his nifty ball-handling skills to transition and bring the ball from defense to attack.
The issue is that without a player like Williamson or Loria, Anguiano is the lone creative midfielder and the only one tasked with advancing the ball through the middle of the park. While he has help, the main objective of a player like Wharton is to cover his back. All of this leads to big gaps between midfielders (as pictured above) which makes it easier for the opponent to swarm and close down, stymying T2’s attack.
Inserted below is another graphic to help back up this point. The heat map shows that a majority of T2’s possession comes down both flanks and hardly down the middle.
There are a lot of different reasons as to why T2 is so reliant on attacking down the wings and not trying to dominate through midfield. At the end of the day, the team has got to learn how to play through opponents who sit back and dare T2 to break them down (like Tulsa did) if they want to become even more dangerous and find even more wins.
Hanson getting up
One player who stood out in this game was Harold Hanson. Slotted in at right back, Hanson seemed to have a lot of the ball as he worked his way up and down the right touchline all night long.
Hanson looked good throughout parts of the game, but he also stood out for some of the glaring mistakes that he made. While he played the role valiantly, he is not as athletic as someone like Marco Farfan who can afford to bomb up and down the sidelines relying on his pace to make up for mistakes. It seemed like Hanson got caught up the field a few too many times which allowed the Tulsa offense to get into the space that he vacated putting the T2 defense into a world of trouble.
The defender’s most glaring mistake came on the Roughneck’s lone goal as he lost his footing in the box. His man was able to perform a simple cut before finding himself unmarked at the back post for the easy finish. In the 38’, Hanson was once again caught ball watching as his marker was able to run off of his back shoulder and almost find himself free for a header in the box.
Despite some of the defensive miscues, Hanson had some promising moments on offense, such as beating a few defenders one-on-one and delivering a cross into the box. However, it was not enough to offset some of his mistakes in this game. On Saturday night, Hanson proved that he is capable of playing the role, but in doing so he will need some help and additional coverage.
A tactical observation
In most games, T2 coach Cameron Knowles utilizes some form of a 4-2-3-1. However, against the Roughnecks, he went with a classic 4-4-2. It’s a more rigid formation which makes it an interesting choice against a team that mostly wanted to nick a goal and sit back.
In the formation, Knowles moved Brayan Hurtado- who has been effective up top in multiple games recently- to the left wing. On defense, Foster Langsdorf and Gio Colixtro traded off being the first line of defense as the two strikers. This formation took advantage of Langsdorf’s work rate and seemed effective overall while also giving more of a look into what the team might think of Hurtado’s skill set. In my recent “Stock Up, Stock Down report,” I talked about Hurtado and his ability to dribble, hold up play, and just be a jack-of-all-trades on offense. On the left wing, Hurtado can take advantage of his offensive prowess while not having to worry as much about his defense or immediately pressing.
Overall, the integration of a 4-4-2 looks to be an interesting wrinkle for this team and something to look at going forwards.
T2 hits the road once again as they go on a Northern California trip that takes them through Sacramento and Fresno. Currently in fourth place, it will be important for T2 to get a result or two on the road in order to stay near the top of the west. With the season in full-swing, it’s about time where the team needs to begin to hit their stride.