Approaching the midpoint of their first season, Portland Timbers 2 are sitting ninth among 12 teams in the Western Conference of the United Soccer League.
The T2 project is a work in progress, but for Caleb Porter the second-tier team is an important development for future MLS Timbers.
“We’re having the opportunity to evaluate players. It’s a breeding ground. I watch every game. I keep tabs on the players that are there,” the Timbers coach said.
The next test for T2 comes today at the University of Portland’s Merlo Field. After five consecutive road matches, Portland hosts the Austin Aztex in a 6 p.m. USL match. Tickets cost $10 to $15. A live webstream will be available at www.timbers2.com..
Porter said he is pleased that he has been able to get some T2 games for Timbers who are not seeing game time at the MLS level.
“Some of them have done well, some of them haven’t. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing,” Porter said. “We need to sort through these players and figure out who is going to sink or swim. Some guys will sink, some guys will swim. Some guys will tread water and maybe drown. Some guys will eventually swim.”
A main reason the Timbers added a second-division team is the opportunity to evaluate young players who aren’t yet ready to play at the MLS level.
“The purpose (of T2) is to develop players for the first team. And some guys aren’t going to make it. They’re not going to be good enough,” Porter said. “Some guys aren’t going to be good enough initially and eventually they will be. Some guys will be maybe good enough quicker than others.
“If you don’t have that team, and you don’t have those games for them to play, then we don’t get those questions answered,” the coach added. “That’s been a problem the last couple of years.”
Porter singled out central defender Rennico Clarke, comparing the potential of the 19-year-old with that fellow Jamaican Alvas Powell. At 20, Powell is the regular starter at right back for the MLS Timbers.
“He’s raw at times. He’s made some mistakes where he’s cost his team. He can be a little bit up and down, but I like what I see out of the kid,” Porter said. “I won’t say he’s definitely going to make it for us. But I think he’s a kid that has a chance.”
With that in mind, Porter said Clarke will travel with the Timbers for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match against Seattle to expose him to the first-team environment.
The Timbers have a veteran center-back pair with Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers. Ridgewell is 30 and Borchers 34, so the Timbers need to develop their eventual replacements. Another promising young center back is Anthony Manning, though the Timbers third-round pick in January’s MLS SuperDraft is sidelined by a concussion.
“In some ways Rennico’s going to put pressure on Anthony to be better,” Porter said. “So those two guys will fight it out, and maybe both of them end up starting for us one day.”
NOTES — Camas High graduate Brent Richards scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Colorado Springs. Richards has appeared in five league matches and two U.S. Open Cup games since returning from injury. He has played primarily at right back. … T2 (4-6-2, 14 points) has played eight of its 12 league matches on the road. Austin (5-6-1, 16 points) is seventh in the Western Conference. … With six goals in 10 games, T2’s Kharlton Belmar is tied for fourth in the USL in goals scored.