On Monday morning a side comprised of equal parts Portland Timbers reserves and academy players took on the United States U-17 Men's National Team in the final match of their tour through the Pacific Northwest. The match featured several players that, if everything goes to plan, could go without seeing the field for a single minute in MLS play this year.
The Timbers' lineup against the U.S. U-17s: Justin Luthy; Niko De Vera, Taylor Peay, Peter Prescott, Alvas Powell; Foster Langsdorf, George Fochive; Anthony Macchione, Jesse Garcia-Aguilar, Schillo Tshuma; Salif Muhammed (Jacob Kempf, 62').
Let's take a look at the Timbers reserves.
Peay was an organizing force in the center of the defense for the Timbers. Although not as talkative as his partner in the center of the defense, Prescott, Peay kept the defense and midfield on point, making it very difficult for the U-17s to move the ball through the midfield.
In the one on one moments where he found himself matched up against one of the U-17 forwards, Peay was generally up to the task. When the Timbers' defense did lose out, as happened on each of the U-17s goals, Peay found himself stranded in no-man's land between the winger and center forward while De Vera recovered from one of his many runs down the pitch along the left flank.
Powell ran rampant on the right wing for the Timbers, regularly making runs into the space left open as Tshuma cut inside. With his superior speed and strength Powell over-matched defender Edwin Lara, and it was no surprise that all three goals came from the Timbers' right flank.
Unfortunately, it was hard to get a read on Powell's real skill level thanks to the physical mismatch that he thoroughly exploited throughout the match. What we can say, however, is that he effectively shut down every U-17s player to venture onto his side of the pitch, including Haji Wright, who scored the U-17s' first goal and assisted the second after moving to the center of the pitch.
Against the U-17s, Fochive did not do much holding as a holding midfielder, more often springing attacks with through balls played to Muhammed at the top of the team's formation. When the Timbers did slow the pace of the game and decide to hold possession, Fochive's passing was on point and, when given space, he ripped a hard shot that was just wide of the net from 25 yards out.
Fochive's biggest impact on the match, however, was his disruptive presence in the center of the pitch. With C.Pulisic controlling the U-17s attack from the No. 10 spot, Fochive was a constant thorn in his side, dispossessing him, blocking his passing lanes, and generally being a nuisance.
Right Attacking Midfielder
Every time Tshuma plays, the comparison to Darlington Nagbe's early days in MLS is inescapable. A player with audacious foot-skills and a nose for goal, Tshuma also has something of a tendency to disappear, like Nagbe did from time to time in his rookie year.
Against the U-17s, Tshuma did disappear for long periods of time. When he had possession, there were few on the field that could take the ball off of Tshuma's feet, but he rarely went at players, instead checking back and playing a simple pass. When he did play quickly and press forward, Tshuma was effective, including assisting on Powell's winning goal and creating space of his own for several shots late in the match.