Due to the expansion still being completed at Providence Park early this spring, Portland Timbers 2 opens the 2018 season with a five game road trip. Their opener was After a quick jaunt up to Tacoma where they lost 2-1 followed up last week by a longer trip to up to the elevation of Weidner Field at Colorado Springs which they won 1-0.
The initial match was the debut of Cheney Stadium, the new home facility in Tacoma for Sounders 2, and was a frenetic high-paced affair with 32 shots generated and 820 total passes. Neither side managed to show and etended periods of possession and momentum remained elusive for both side. All three goals came in the first half and the second half resembled a track meeting with a ball shaped prop as much as a soccer match. Portland’s lone goal was scored by Augustine Williams off a low cross into the box by Jimmy Mulligan and gave Portland an early lead before Sounders 2 replied with two goals of their own.
Last weeks match was a much slower affair as the consistently defensive stance of the Switchbacks and the altitude slowed down the speedy legs on Timbers 2. Although 23 shot were generated most were far off the mark and Jeff Attinella, who was down with Timbers 2 as he rehabs from injury, made several great saves to keep Portland in the match. In the 81st minute Augustine Williams once again came good with a tap in from a rebound off Switchbacks goalie Steward Ceus.
Unlike a majority of USL sides Timbers 2 feature a 4-4-2 formation with a duo of forwards and a fairly balanced single line of midfielders. So far this season Williams has been paired up top with Jeremy Ebobisse, who was drafted with the 4th pick in last years SuperDraft and made 14 appearances with the Timbers last season. Both have plenty of pace and look to strike on the counter and off long balls over the top.
The midfield has seen little consistency in the first two matches with both and Eryk Williamson seeing substantial playing time while down on loan from the Timbers. Andre Lewis has been the leader in playing time as serves as the main anchor and pivot of the foursome averaging 47.5 passes a match.
Centerback Josh Phillips serves as the captain and is a veteran presence on the young back line. Modou Jadama, a 24-year-old signed by the parent club this season, Nathan Smith and James Mulligan round out the consistent back line. With the Timbers 2’s strong penchant toward fast counterattacks all four are among team leaders in long passes.
The Monarchs have only David Diosa remaining on the injured list this week and will probably see less of an RSL influence in both the game day 18 and the starting lineup. Jose Hernandez, Danilo Acosta, Nick Besler and Shawn Berry among those would could see time this week.
Also look for Kaylen Ryden, Masta Kacher and Charlie Adams to break into the starting lineup with fewer RSL players in the mix. Justin Portillo and his partner in the back of the midfield will be key in controlling the two forwards up top and limiting the number of balls over the top that find their way to them.
Watch the right side of the Monarchs attack early in the match for signs of connection between Maikel Chang, Velasquez or Hernandez, and Hoffman and the right halfback. If it begins to flow again this week at home in the friendly confines of Rio Tinto stadium look for a high score and and offensive fireworks.
An afternoon match, the game begins at 1 PM and will be played Rio Tinto while the final touches are being added to the Monarchs’ new home field in Herriman. Come prepared to honor former Real Monarchs Assistant Coach Liam Miller during a moment of applause held prior to kickoff as the teams join together at the center circle prior to kickoff at the sound of the referee’s whistle. Additionally fans are invited to stand and lift their scarves for the entirety of the game’s 8th minute (7:00 to 7:59 on the game clock). Miller – a former Irish international, Manchester United and Celtic midfielder – passed away on February 9 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.