The Orange County Blues play their first midweek game of the 2016 season on Wednesday, as they host Portland Timbers 2. The Blues had considerable success against T2 last year, but both teams certainly have plenty of new faces. Ahead of the match, we get caught up on T2 with Joshua Duder of the Play The Kids podcast, a show devoted to Timbers 2 that is affiliated with SB Nation Timbers blog Stumptown Footy. Thanks to Joshua for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Play The Kids:
1. T2 made major changes in the offseason. What are some of the main changes on the roster and staff for 2016?
Really, the biggest off-season change for T2 was inaugural coach Jay Vidovich out and former USL Timber, Academy coach and T2 assistant, Andrew Gregor in. Nobody is certain why three-time ACC Champion and one-time NCAA Coach-of-the-year Vidovich left professional soccer after just one season, but he headed back to The University of Pittsburgh to compete collegiately.
In addition to Jay leaving, a handful of players found their way onto other USL, or even NASL rosters. For example Blair Gavin, former MLSer, now with Arizona United--or Fatawu Safiu, now with Whitecaps 2. The reasoning for this comes with understanding the "raison d'être" of Portland Timbers 2; the squad exists solely to develop positional players for the first team.
2. So T2 didn't make the playoffs last year, but the Portland Timbers won MLS Cup. So was year one a success for the USL team, or is there more room for improvement on the USL level?
Knowing that the only purpose of T2 is to develop players, helps to see the first season, absolutely, as a success. Former T2 standouts George Fochive, Taylor Peay and Jake Gleeson contributed down the stretch, to MLS Portland Timbers' championship. The club further benefitted by selling Fochive on to a European club.
There's always room for improvement. One thing I hope for is, in addition to developing players, to create a culture of winning. That's hard to do while simultaneously disregarding results. But the current squad is chock full of talent and Coach Gregor is preaching patience.
3. Who should Blues fans be on the lookout for from Portland on Wednesday? Any early standouts this season?
Former USL Rookie of the Year Kharlton Belmar got his first start on the weekend vs Sacramento Republic and not coincidentally T2 earned it's first win with a goal from him. Portland emulates the first team by playing a single-pivot 4-3-3, and there's more attacking talent on this squad than you can shake a stick at. La Masia product Alexis Meva, MLS draft picks Ben Polk and Neco Brett, former Liverpool youth player Villjan Bijev...right now we're really excited to see 19-year-old Colombian winger Víctor Arboleda.
All that having been said, the defense has been coming and going, helping to fill-in for injuries to the first team. They held a clean sheet for the first time last week, and it was the first match they hadn't given up a penalty.
(Bonus) prediction for Wednesday's game?
I expect OCBFC to score, maybe a pair, at Anteater Stadium. Former Timber Steve Purdy will help keep T2 to only a pair as well. 2-2
What do you think? Leave a comment below!