Didn't we just run a Three Questions feature on here for the upcoming Orange County Blues game? Yes, we did. But through a quirk of the USL schedule the Blues are playing two road games in three days, with the next being Sunday evening against Portland Timbers 2.
So just like (ok, kinda like) the Blues, we had to plan prudently but have been able to line up a quick turnaround with a Three Questions interview ahead of the game. This time around, we welcome Kevin McCamish of Timbers/Timbers 2/Thorns SB Nation blog Stumptown Footy. Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions on T2!
The Goat Parade asks Stumptown Footy:
1. Timbers 2 are obviously a reserve team of the MLS side, but they've been one of the best new MLS-owned teams so far in their first season. I imagine the primary objective is to support the first team, of course, but are T2 truly aiming to win titles in their own right?
Head coach Jay Vidovich has stated that the primary function of this team is development of players. Now you can obviously develop players while aiming to win something, but preparing the loanees and some of the young T2 signings for possibly making the jump to the first team is the number one priority. A lot of these USL reserve teams for MLS clubs are there to bridge that gap from their academy to the first team and T2 isn't going to be any different in that regard.
2. Forward Kharlton Belmar has five goals in six games and is coming off a USL Player of the Week award. Tell us a little about his game, and do you think he'll be capable of making the jump up to MLS any time soon?
Belmar is a special treat to watch. He is a center striker with speed and athleticism in spades. When fully rested he seems capable of high pressuring the backline into mistakes for a full 90 minutes. He is able to attempt to toe poke the ball away from defenders who try to dribble out of his pressure, and his speed allows him to chase down any ball sent forward. No ball is a lost cause.
Now, whether any of this translates to MLS is the big question right now, even as early as the season is given the first team Timbers' current form of their striker corps. A lot of people want to see Belmar moved up to the first team immediately or at least sometime this season. But one potentially large problem is that, right now, he is a signed T2 player not someone on loan from the first team. And we don't really know what mechanisms exist within the murky MLS rules to loan a player up from USL to MLS. Obviously if the Timbers want it to happen, they'll find a way. Just based on the fact that they drafted him should mean that they retain his rights to sign him to an MLS contract for at least one year. But mechanisms for a loan/transfer or move of any type aside, the other reason I don't see him going to MLS this season is that it has only been six games. And he impresses against slower and less sharp USL defenses. His speed won't get him as far against MLS defenses where their center backs are smarter and better positioned to deal with the threat. So the intention has to be to keep him with T2 and bring along his development as a complete striker in the lone striker role as much as possible. Take his raw talent and build upon/develop his soccer IQ and eye for the game. And if he keeps up his form across an entire season then it would be silly of the Timbers not to bring him up to the first team (and at that point loan him back down to T2 if needed).
3. Two players on the Timbers 2 roster who may be of interest to readers of this site are Schillo Tshuma (briefly on loan with the Blues last season) and Blair Gavin (played for Chivas USA 2010-12). How are these guys doing this season?
Blair Gavin captains T2 when he plays (which I believe has been every single game except the last one) and his experience provides solid leadership to the young guys as well as the primary set piece taker. He has been consistent in midfield each time he steps on the pitch.
I saw Schillo in Arizona preseason right after we drafted him and I was excited at his prospect. Then he basically disappeared and we hardly saw or heard from him. Loaned to OC Blues and Arizona United for a bit we really didn't hear anything about him. Thankfully that changes this season with T2. Not only for him but for all of our young players. I'm not sure how he did last season on his loans, but Tshuma has impressed on the wing so far this season. Placed opposite of Rundell Winchester they both have done well to link with Belmar and create a very speedy top attacking three in matches.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for Sunday's game?
It has been said that the Timbers will loan a number of players down to T2 for the match (probably helps that it will be at Providence Park and it's a home match the day after a first team home match). So the potential to see anyone who doesn't play against Vancouver probably increases the chances T2 wins. Will Johnson and Jeanderson seem likely, with anyone from George Fochive, Rodney Wallace, Ishmael Yartey, etc possibly playing if they don't see minutes Saturday night.
Add to that, the super short turnaround for OC and this match screams either ‘trap game' or ‘T2 domination'. So T2 wins. And I'll say 3-1 scoreline with our Kharlton Belmar snagging the hat trick.
Find my answers to Kevin's questions about the Blues over here.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!