Coach Ezra Hendrickson and fan-owners get host Portland Timbers 2 for the first time in the new era of the USL. Starfire will be filled with passionate Seattle Sounders players, coaches and owners aiming to end T2's lossless streak. S2 is also without a loss. Starting at 7:30 PM the match features a Seattle side that scores four goals every game. Portland is coming off a midweek win over Real Monarchs (RSL) in which one of their players was red carded.
Kevin from Stumptown Footy answers Three Questions to prepare you for all the developmental action.
SaH: What's the guiding philosophy behind T2?
STF: I think this T2 team is all about development. [It] created to bridge that academy to MLS gap like many other '2' teams, the focus is getting young players meaningful minutes and experience. Head coach Jay Vidovich has said that he is here first and foremost to train these guys exactly like they do on the first team and develop them so that hopefully a few of them can really excel with the first team. Development first, results second.
SaH: How does having two of the best college coaches of the last decade both working with the Timbers help their developmental programs?
STF: Vidovich is definitely here because of Caleb Porter. Having the training sessions run into each other and having Jay as an assistant coach on the first team really links these two teams into one program. And Caleb is the lead on it. Everything T2 does is to emulate the first team. From training sessions to how the teams play these two teams are linked providing the best chance for the T2 guys to be able to step right into the first team if they impress. And with two coaches very much alike and involved with each other it's really two minds as one in the way they do things with these two teams.
SaH: T2 is off to a hot start, but does it have the depth to do two road games in a week?
STF: I feel like the team has good depth. Outside of Santiago Biglieri who is still working on game fitness and Brent Richards who is injured pretty much everyone has played minutes and not looked out of place at all. Given the very short turnaround between road matches, red card to Rennico Clarke, and general fatigue there will definitely be changes this weekend. Even as young as they are a three night turnaround is short. It will be another good test for this side.
Projected Lineup: Gleeson; Rose, Delbridge, Manning, Peay; Gavin, Besler, Evans; Fatawu, Belmar, Tshuma
Kevin notes that USL lineups are quite hard to predict.
STF: Who are three S2 players that we might not have heard about down here but should be watching out for?
SaH: Let's go from least known to most known.
Choong Sil Lim - right back from the current U18 team in the Academy who is one of the five players that maintain amateur status while playing up in USL. The compact and speedy right back has only 10 minutes of USL play, but on a weekend with the first team down in LA this is a good chance for him to get a run. During preseason he cut off lanes well defensively and was a terror going forward.
Damion Lowe - The Generation Adidas player is on the first team roster, but is playing down right now. He's just 21 and part of Jamaica's U23 squad. Lowe is a lanky CB with speed and pinpoint accuracy with his long balls. Dude doesn't clear the ball, he assists goal scorers.
Victor Mansaray - He's Seattle's youngest HGP and youngest player to see first team time, but this weekend the MLS side won't need him so the forward/winger probably stays at home so he can do his homework and face Portland the first time. Vic played in 18 USSDA matches this season scoring 9 goals with 1 of those coming against the Timbers U18s. He's flashy, driven and the most right footed player you'll meet in your life. He'll still wind up in the boxscore.
STF: Are you excited to renew this rivalry at the USL level and do you feel it will be like the good old days before MLS came calling on the Pacific Northwest?
SaH: I love being surrounded by 65,000 people that hate Portland. But there's also an amazing feeling to being at Starfire save in the knowledge that Seattle's earned trophies there and crushed Timbers hopes there. The intimacy is nice. Being so close to the players is a unique experience in pro sports. There's also a thing about that crowd. If you can measure crowd passion in percentages it is cranked as high as can be.
STF: What have you learned about S2 from their first two games and when two undefeated teams enter who goes home unhappy?
SaH: Ezra Hendrickson cares about winning. S2 has a slightly older, and much more experienced lineup than other '2s.' There are several players getting loaned down regularly and only one direct signing from the Academy to Sounders 2. It's also a squad that's willing to go all out in the attack and doesn't care if it uses the long ball, set-pieces or build-up play to get there. Everything is about getting possession and threatening as rapidly as possible. It's exciting; it's winning; it's still pretty local.
Predicted lineup: Lyon; Correa, Lowe, Miele, Long; Mansaray, Frano, Sanyang, Craven; Rossi, Jones