Portland Timbers 2 with a current record of 2-18-5 and sitting dead last in the standings is coming to the end of a nightmare season in 2017. Along with their Cascadia rivals, Seattle Sounders FC 2 and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, the Timbers junior squad decided to focus on playing their youth this year and shed many of their experienced players through signings up to MSL with their parent club or not resigning other experienced players.
The 2017 Monarchs benefited from this decision by picking up Nick Besler (who recently signed with RSL), Taylor Peay, and Michael Gallagher from last years Timbers 2 squad. Daniel Haber was also picked up from last years Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 squad. As injuries on the parent MLS squad made it difficult to allow the former USL players to join the junior squad on game days, the Timbers 2 have been left with an assortment of young and relatively inexperienced players and not consistent lineup.
The first win of this season for Portland occurred against Sacramento in April when Villyan Bijev, on loan from Sacramento, and Victor Arboleda, a player Portland signed to an MLS contract last season, combined to give Timbers 2 a 2-0 victory in Sacramento. Their second victory came against Rio Grande Valley at home in July when the Toros failed to connect on two penalty shots and goals by Bijev and Omar Mohammed were sufficient to create a 2-1 victory.
With only 21 goals scored on the season Portland sits dead last among the western conference teams and 5 goals behind the LA Galaxy II. Vilyan Bijev, still on loan from Sacramento, leads the team with 7 goals while Victor Arboleda is second with 3 goals in only 11 appearances for the junior side.
While Timbers 2 have managed only 2 clean sheets this season with Wade Hamilton was in goal, Kendall McIntosh, the parent Timbers third string goalie who has made 16 appearances for Timbers 2 this season is among USL leaders with 74 saves.
The Monarchs who will be attempting to avoid a two game losing streak for the first time this season, who have plenty of selections with only Taylor Peay and Andrew Brody listed as questionable due to ankle injuries. Recent signings Danny Cruz, Juan Ignacio Mare and Diego Calvo should see time as they continue to work into the Monarchs squad. With the return of Kyle Beckerman from suspension, Nick Besler may also make an appearance with the Monarchs along with Jose Hernandez, Reagan Dunk or Justin Schmidt.
Chandler Hoffman remains 2 goals behind Dane Kelly and former RSL man, Enzo Martinez, in the race for the USL Golden Boot. Charlie Adams with 7 assists is just two behind Chis Wehan of Reno for the USL lead and closely followed by both Chandler Hoffman and Sebastian Valesquez who have 6 apiece.
With the transfer of Lalo Fernandez to Tigres this week, Connor Sparrow has become the first choice goalie for the Monarchs and has an excellent opportunity to increase his 5 shutouts this season against a weak Portland offense.
This will be the eighth match between the Monarchs and Timbers 2. Overall the Monarchs have a winning 3-2-2 record with a goal differential of 0, but in Portland this falls to a 1-2-0 record where the sole victory was the first match of this season. A victory Saturday would give the Monarchs a three game sweep for 2017 as they also won the sole match at Rio Tinto this season on June 10th when they tied the consecutive win record at 8.
What to watch for
The Monarchs need to rebound from the late collapse against San Antonio and find some offensive rhythm for an entire match. While it is likely that, baring injury, any substitutes will be on the offensive side to continue the integration of new players look for the Monarchs to put in a 90 minute effort on both sides of the ball.
The Monarchs will surely attempt to push high and press in the midfield early in an attempt to take a lead and put the fragile Portland squad on their back heels. However, even if early success is not found it will be important to maintain consist effort on offense and possess the ball against a team that they have already beaten twice.
Finally, keep an eye on the bench for Christian Herrera, who should make the 18 due to the injury to Jake Gleeson on the parent Timbers. He is a 20-year-old goalkeeper who was in the same RSL academy class with Justin Glad, Danny Acosta, Brooks Lennon, and Sebastian Saucedo. He is currently on loan from the Monarchs to Timbers 2, but could easily find his way back to Utah next season with the departure of Lalo Fernandez. At 6’6” and 210 lbs he is physical presence in the goal that RSL has not had recently.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Haber, Velasquez, Brody; Hoffman
Portland Timbers 2: (4-2-3-1): Hamilton; Hanson, Tuiloma, Batista, Farfan; Granitto; Zambrano; Cicerone; Bijev, Arboleda; Williams
When: Saturday, September 9, 8:00 pm MDT
Where: Providence Park — Portland, Oregon
Weather: 69 degrees, Cloud with 35% chance for showers