Match Day 23 will see San Antonio FC continuing their three-match road trip on the West Coast with the second of two meetings this year with Portland Timbers 2. We once again caught up with Kevin McCamish (@KMcCamishpdx) host of the Play The Kids Podcast (@PTKPodcast) to see what’s new with the Timbers USL squad. Here we go into another Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) Timbers two has struggled a bit since we last saw them back in June. At the time, they were second in the West. Now they are sixth with San Antonio creeping up right behind them. Catch us up on the challenges in the last two months for this team.
(KM) T2 isn’t the only ‘2’ side to struggle as the season wears on. Nor is this the first season where this trend has occurred for ‘2’ sides. It would’ve been nice for T2 to keep up the blistering pace they set in the first third of the season, and other than pointing to the defense having some sort of crisis, it’s hard to pinpoint other causes for the lack of results this summer.
My best guess is as the season matures (for both USL and MLS) reasons pop up that require player rotation and disrupt the team chemistry a bit. With 2 players going to the world cup for the first team plus a short-term injury or two, as well as any potential injuries on the 2nd team that I’ve been unaware of, you have a recipe for player rotation.
What sucks is that it has affected the defense so severely. The team leads the entire league in shutouts through 14 games and since then they’ve been an absolute sieve. I’ve been digging into games trying to figure out if it is due to formation or players or what but it is hard to tell. T2 have better results when Renzo Zambrano has good chemistry in the midfield (Zambrano being primarily a defensive midfielder). Earlier in the season, it was Zambrano and Eryk Williamson, recently it has been Zambrano and Andre Lewis. A win, draw (away to OC), and loss (to top west side Phoenix) is a better string of results than most of the summer has been.
- 2 – Portland is still very dangerous on the attack – they are currently 3rd in USL West in total goals scored. What has been the key to their offensive success this season?
I believe it to be the competition. Jeremy Ebobisse had himself some impressive 317 minutes in MLS in his rookie season. Now we have homegrown player Foster Langsdorf (the best soccer player to ever emerge from Stanford University bar none) who is the first T2 player to score double digits in a season since Kharlton Belmar in 2015. And of course Augustine Williams is in the mix, but I imagine being on a T2 contract makes it a bit more challenging fighting two first-team loanees for minutes.
Either way, this season T2 has been spoiled for choice in the attack. Langsdorf is having himself a wonderful rookie season, Ebobisse has shown improvement, Marvin Loria is turning out to be quite the winger, Augustine Williams, Eryk Williamson, Jack Barmby, and others all fighting for minutes. When the right combination is found for the opponent, T2 is able to unleash a torrent of goals. But sometimes Foster can go cold or the right combination wasn’t chosen and the goals can dry up (see the 4-1 loss to Phoenix where Foster missed 2 PKs). With the defense situation not showing any signs of being resolved, it poses a significant problem when Cameron Knowles can’t get the attack right or it dries up. Thus our entire summer summed up.
- 3 – Foster Langsdorf has 10 goals on the season – only three behind league leaders Cameron Lancaster and Thomas Enevoldsen. Can he win the Golden Boot, and would anything need to change tactically for it to become more of a possibility for him?
It could be possible. Seems both likely and unlikely. Likely in that he has a goal or assist every 110 min right now (10g, 2a in 18 appearances). Unlikely in that he, like T2, has cooled off in the heat of summer. The most recent example is having stepped up for 2 PKs vs Phoenix Rising and having both attempts saved. Those two goals would have tied him for the golden boot lead.
He is certainly the best attacker T2 have ever had since Kharlton Belmar in their inaugural 2015 season. Kharlton put away 13 goals in 2015, Foster is the first T2 player to score double digits since then. Belmar’s 13 goals in 30 games in 2015 are more than the top two scorers in 2016 & 2017 combined (Neco Brett, 7 goals 2016; Victor Arboleda, 4 goals 2017). So a virulent attack is not something T2 is familiar with.
But he is young and this is his rookie season. While he is likely to spend all of his minutes with T2 I don’t know if he will be able to get enough goals to win the golden boot. He is far more likely to beat the all-time leading scorer in Belmar as I’m confident he can put away 4 or 5 more goals before the season is over.
- 4 – Looking at the overall numbers, with the goal scoring being so prevalent and seeing Portland among the league leaders in clean sheets too, how disappointing is it to see them give up so many goals recently? They were hit for 11 goals over the four-match stretch. What’s been lacking defensively and how will they adjust for San Antonio who has played well?
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what has gone sideways for what was once a league-leading defensive unit. Individual errors, not tracking runners, giving up penalties, all combination of silly mistakes are there. Also, many independent USL teams have been improving as the season carries on (while a few ‘2’ sides are sliding). It is probably a combination of everything from mistakes, chemistry, to improved USL attacks as teams get settled in for back-end playoff runs. It is essentially a matter of being able to outscore their opponents if T2 want to have any chance at points (see a 4-3 win vs LAII and a 2-2 draw vs Orange County). T2 vs LA2 have been high scoring affairs with two teams on solid attacks and little to no defense what-so-ever. T2 vs Orange County saw T2 go up 2-0 only to allow OC to claw back for a point.
What will T2 do to adjust to San Antonio? Nothing. Whatever T2’s defense was doing in the first third of the season is long gone and there is no evidence it is going to return anytime soon. Hopefully, Foster’s confidence is not hurt from the Phoenix game and T2 can go out and get some goals, but under no circumstances should anyone expect T2 to get a shutout vs San Antonio. If San Antonio can score twice they’ll likely be able to cruise with at worst a point if not all three.
- 5 – San Antonio stunned Portland very late-on back in June with two goals in the final ten minutes of the match to steal…and we do mean steal….all three points. Portland has still never defeated San Antonio. What’s your prediction for this one?
San Antonio win 3-1
- 6 – What’s your prediction for where T2 will finish and how will their season end?
T2 will be fighting for a playoff spot for the rest of the season. 7th is likely their best possible finish while 8th or 9th is the most likely finish. In 2015 & 2016 T2 just barely missed out on a playoff spot. It is not unlikely that it happens again in 2018 (finishing 9th with just a point or two out of 8th). But if T2 can regain even a fraction of their early season form over the final 10 games they should be able to squeeze out the 8th place and get to the playoffs for the first time ever.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – W W W W L, 2018 Road Record 2-4-4
Portland Timbers 2 – L W D L W, 2018 Home Record 5-0-6
San Antonio FC: 34 points, GF 27, GA 27, 0 GD, 7th in USL West
Portland Timbers 2: 36 points, 39 GF, 37 GA, +2 GD, 6th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
Portland Timbers 2 have never defeated San Antonio FC. San Antonio won this fixture in Portland 4-0 last season. All-time SAFC holds the edge 3-1-0.
6/2/18 @ SA – SA 2, POR 1
8/15/2018 @ PT2
It was a surprise win for San Antonio FC at Toyota Field back in June. All three goals were scored in the second half. Portland took the lead with an Augustine Williams PK in the 50th minute. Gordon equalized in the 86th minute to salvage what had been an otherwise dull affair for SAFC. That set up the added time dramatics for Alex Bruce and his very late winner to the delight of the home crowd. Turning zero points into three points in the final minutes of this match might turn out to be one of the key moments for San Antonio in 2018. Here are all the highlights:
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (9-7-6) at Portland Timbers 2 (11-3-10) #PORvSA
Providence Park, Wednesday, August 15th
Kickoff 9:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
It wasn’t a long list of believers when San Antonio started their four-game win streak against the top team in the West last month. It was probably a similarly short list of people who thought San Antonio would stumble against the team in 16th place in USL West a month later while riding such a hot streak, but as they say, that’s why they play the games. And that’s exactly what happened. In a way, you could say those two matches that book-ended this recent five-game run was a wash. It’s just that San Antonio won one that most people expected they would lose and vice versa. San Antonio will have to do more than that if they want to hang on to their playoff positioning.
It was a weird night in Seattle over the weekend that saw a usually very good San Antonio defense get carved up to pieces in atypical fashion. If not for the heroics of Diego Restrepo, Seattle just may have had six goals. Despite the final scoreline, he was terrific. He made a clutch save after clutch save to keep SA in it all night long. The night included a missed PK for Seattle, an own goal of bizarre proportions on a seemingly harmless back pass, and even a red card for the home side by way of two yellows. In the end, it still added up to a 3-2 Seattle win. Only their fifth of the season. Definitely not what San Antonio fans expected.
In addition to Restrepo, on the positive sign was Ever Guzman who found the back of the net for his fourth straight appearance, cleaning up a McCarthy header that bounced off the post for the easy tap-in. He has now rocketed past Omar Gordon for the team lead in goals with five. It didn’t work out in Seattle, but you have to like San Antonio’s chances game in and game out when he is playing at this level.
For the second straight match, San Antonio will face a team that has previously not beaten them, but Portland is a much different beast than Seattle. They come into the match off a 2-0 win over Swope Park Rangers on the weekend that featured goals from Ebobisse and Barmby. Portland spent a good deal of the first half of the season near the top of the standings but they have fallen back recently. But don’t be fooled. They are dangerous. They have piled up 12 more goals than SAFC on the season, which ranks them among the best offenses in USL West.
Yet they currently find themselves in a dogfight for a bottom four playoff spot, right along with San Antonio FC. SAFC has games in hand, so Portland will want to win this one very badly to create additional distance between the two clubs on the table. Expect them to play with bite.
With an emotional road showdown with a strong Phoenix team looming just around the bend and three points already dropped on this road trip, San Antonio can ill afford another stumble in the Pacific Northwest. Despite the loss in Seattle, there was enough in the positive column on Saturday night to keep hope alive for this San Antonio team.
To earn that all-important win on Wednesday, they will need to forget about Seattle quickly and also overcome the road woes that have seen them win only two of ten matches away from Toyota Field this season. We think they have it in them. They can and should bounce back in this one, although we expect it’ll be a tight one. San Antonio eeks it out. Guzman stays red hot.
San Antonio FC – 2
Portland Timbers 2 – 1
SAFC “Did You Know?”
SAFC has scored four goals in USL play three times. Once in July 2018 against Real Monarchs, once against Reno in April 2017, and once against Portland in the same month, on April 28, 2017, in this very fixture last season.