Photo courtesy Sam Ortega / Portland Timbers 2
After coming so close to a playoff berth in their second season, 2017 was a difficult year for Portland Timbers 2, winning just three matches in the regular season to finish well adrift at the bottom of the Western Conference. Despite the club's record T2 played some attractive soccer a lot of the time, but struggled to put the ball into the back of the net as it finished with the fewest goals in the Western Conference.
With such a poor record it would be easy to think that T2 was routinely blown out in the regular season, which was not actually the case. T2 only lost by a larger margin than two goals on four occasions, and at times had control of games only for their lack of finishing to end up costing them when a defensive lapse would be seized upon by their opponent. The presence of numerous players on the USL 20 Under 20 countdown in the summer showed the potential the club has overall, but having a consistent finisher emerge is going to be key in the 2018 season.
Record: 3-23-6, 15pts
Place: 15th in the Western Conference
Goals For: 27
Goals Against: 63
USL Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
2017 leaders: Victor Arboleda (4 goals), Marco Farfan, Tomas Granitto, Harold Hanson, Omar Mohamed (2 assists), Kendall McIntosh (90 saves)
Despite the results on the field, there was clearly talent in the T2 squad, as the side possessed the ball well (52.01 percent) and held a strong passing accuracy rate (79.4 percent) that placed the club in the Top 10 in the league in both categories. Goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh put in strong performances throughout the season, and the emergence of young standouts like defenders Lamar Batista and Harold Hanson and forward Augustine Williams bodes well for the future of the side, and for the players themselves.
Portland's inability to find the net was the key to the season for the side, as while it logged more shots overall than a major playoff contender like San Antonio FC in the Western Conference, the club's chance conversion rate of 9.51 percent was the lowest in the league. At the root of the problem was a lack of attacking edge in the final third, as while T2 sat in the lower half of the league with 265 chance created according to Opta data, Portland only created 13 big scoring chances in 32 games, well below the league average of 33.33.
Villyan Bijev produced a tremendous finish against Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders FC 2 as he received the ball in space and quickly turned to run toward goal while being afforded too much space on the edge of the area. That allowed him to launch a powerful shot, just out of the reach of the goalkeeper into the right corner to open the scoring.
A Phoenix Rising FC free kick is tapped short allowing the shot to be taken on a rolling ball by Didier Drogba toward the left corner of the net. T2 goalkeeper Wade Hamilton reacted well to scramble across the line, getting down well and parrying the ball away, allowing the T2 defense to clear.