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Game Preview: Real Monarchs SLC vs. Portland Timbers 2

Monarchs close out the 2018 season series with Timbers 2 on Saturday afternoon at Providence Park

Minnesota United FC  v Portland Timbers Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

In the match with Timbers 2 this afternoon, the Monarchs face a challenge very different from that against the Lights this week. Head Coach, Cameron Knowles, who was reassigned for the parent staff following the difficult 2017 season which saw only three victories and a last place finish, seems to be reshaping the team in a manner that is familiar to fans of the Monarchs.

“The expectation is to win,” he says, plainly, while acknowledging the complications of managing a USL-affiliated squad.

“Our goal here is not to put a completely different stamp on T2 but to provide and environment where the first team players coming down, it’s a seamless transition. The most important thing is that [when first-team players] come down, they get quality minutes, and they’re in an environment that makes sense for them.”

Following a season that saw few extended appearances by Timbers players with MLS contracts, this season the Timbers 2 have been lead and guided by players on the Timbers roster. Madou Jadama leads Timbers 2 in minutes played with the full 990 minutes in 11 matches. play a full 90 in seach match so far this season, victor Arboleda is close behind with 10 starts and 900 minutes. Eryk Williamson and Foster Langsdorf, a teammates of Corey Baird at Standford who signed as a homegrown this spring, each have 9 appearances

Just as Mark Briggs does so well with the Monarchs, Knowes acknowledges, “On the other side, we’ve got Academy players coming up, and we need to give them their first taste of professional football with the Portland Timbers. It needs to look like the first team, so they go through that pathway to get to the first team, it’s not just, ‘Oh, what’s this? Flip me on my head.’ We’ve got the USL players that are signed to us that we need to prepare and develop for the first team, and we’ve also got to create a stable environment for all that other movement.”

Augustine Williamson, who was with the parent Timbers last year, signed a USL contract for 2018 and along with James Mulligan, signed form the NY Cosmos, Andre Lewis, Rezno Zambrano, 20-year-old Lamar Battista, and 18-year-old Harold hanson round out the core members of the 2018 Timber 2.

This afternoon the Monarchs should expect to see a effective combination of experience and youth which is coming off a 7-3 victory over Los Dos last weekend in Providence Park. This team record of 7 goals in a single match is a full third of their 21 goals in their 11 matches this season. Still good enough for second place in USL behind Phoenix Rising FC with 23 and only one more than the third place Monarchs and FC Cincinanti.

Timbers 2, Real Monarchs, and FC Cincinnati are also tied for first place in conversion rate at 20%. At 13 goals conceeded, Portland is four above the 9 conceeded by the Monarchs, but Timbers 2 have 6 shutouts to the Monarchs’ 4.

In other words, if you can score on Timbers 2, you can expect to get more than a single goal. The first match between the two this season at Rio Tinto which ended 4-2 in favor of the Monarch is a case in point. Los Dos managed to get 3 as well in the midst of their blowout loss.

Here are some points to watch during today’s match:

  • Timbers 2 have only 2 headed goals this season. Instead they like the ball on the ground and on their right foot. Possession will be important stat and both sides will seek to monopolize possession.
  • The Monarchs on the other hand have 6 headed goals including all four of Kalen Ryden’s team leading total. The Monarchs need to make set pieces and corner kicks productive and get on the board through them.
  • The key indicator early in the game will be how the defensive midfielders on both sides play. Justin Portillo and Eryk Williams both serve the same vital role and the one who has the best game should be a major factor in the outcome of the match.