Sacramento Republic FC face off against Portland Timbers 2 Saturday night at Papa Murphy’s Park in what is an important match for both sides. As fans may recall, the Republic dropped the first meeting between these two teams on April 13 0-1. The Quails have been up and down since that match posting a 5-5-1 record.
There have been bright spots in wins at Fresno FC, at New Mexico United and a draw at home to Phoenix Rising, but with the lack of goal scoring (excluding the 6-0 win at home versus Tulsa), it seems the team is still trying to find their way.
Kyle Pinnell from Stumptown Footy reached out earlier this week to get some thoughts on the Republic for Stumptown Footy readers as part of his match preview, and was nice enough to provide our readers insights into T2. Kyle discusses T2s early season success, what players Republic fans should be on the lookout for, and for fun, his thoughts on the state of the USL and the newly renovated Providence Park.
T2 is near the top of the Western Conference table. What has been the key(s) to success this season? Are you/fans surprised?
It has been great that T2 are still near the top of the table. However, most of that has come down to a hot start as they have tapered off recently. In their past six games, they have only taken six points (1-3-2) so they are still in desperate need of a few wins to boost them throughout the middle of the season. When they were on their hot streak, they played extremely well through the midfield with players such as Eryk Williamson, Renzo Zambrano, and Marvin Loria. Now, those players have been called up to the first team which hurts in building up possession through the middle of the park. Overall, it’s hard to complain with the team in this position in the table and fans seem relatively pleased, but all it takes is a glance at the table to see that T2 dropping points in recent matches will have them out of playoff position in just a game or two.
What T2 players should Republic fans be aware of?
With some of the more skilled players out of the lineup due to the Timbers condensed schedule, Brayan Hurtado has stood out. Hurtado plays as a very versatile number nine. He can hold up play for the wingers (T2 enjoy playing wide), drop back and receive the ball, use his ball skills to beat defenders one-on-one, and his finishing has been strong as well. He is also a pretty tall target (listed at 6 feet) which makes him dangerous in the air. He has three goals in his last four.
Can you share some of T2s weakness?
When it comes to weaknesses, there are quite a few. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the more skilled players are currently out of the rotation due to being called up to the Timbers. Loria, who started in the midfield, has really proved himself in MLS play and it doesn’t look like he will be back (he had a goal, two assists, and a drawn penalty in his first-ever start versus the Houston Dynamo a few weeks ago). It’s part of being a USL affiliate team to an MLS club, but it still hurts squad cohesion nonetheless. With most of those players being creative midfielders, obviously a weakness comes from trying to play through the middle. Currently the team has Carlos Anguiano (just 19) as the box-to-box midfielder and Todd Wharton (who has been pretty solid this year) doing a majority of the work in the middle. The lack of a number ten can really be felt and it has rendered the team pretty one-dimensional in attack. Most likely they will look to bypass the midfield with a long, direct ball or just play down the wings and try to get crosses into the box.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the USL? How is the support locally for T2?
Overall, I believe the state of USL is better than ever before. With games being on ESPN+, I find it easier to check out some of the “fun teams,” and it’s nice that there are no area blackouts. This year alone, watching teams such as New Mexico United, Phoenix Rising, and some Las Vegas Lights has been awfully fun. When it comes to T2, the general gist of everything is that they are in a harder position. MLS affiliates such as Tacoma Defiance, T2, Atlanta United 2, Los Dos, NYRB 2, etc. have a natural disadvantage because they aren’t the biggest soccer club in the area. However, that means people who pay attention to these teams can be more dedicated as it often is the future of the first team. With the Timbers beginning to integrate more T2 players into the first team setup, I believe that more and more fans pay attention because they see someone like Loria or Zambrano and they might want to see the next player to come up through the system. There may be less fan support at games in comparison to the New Mexico United’s, Sacramento’s, and Louisville City’s, but the passion is still there.
Can you describe for fans in Sacramento the new and improved Providence Park?
In regards to T2, Providence Park feels even more cavernous than it did before. Because it is not an independent club, the attendance is usually pretty low in comparison to a team like Sacramento. If you bring all the teams into account, the renovated stadium is absolutely wonderful and a sight to behold. It feels much more closed in and intimidating, and on the Timbers and Thorns best days it feels like an absolute fortress. The sound is much more amplified and it just adds to the atmosphere. It’s definitely a stadium to make sure and check out if in town, and when it comes to T2 games, it’s even easier to walk around and observe.
Thank you again to Kyle for sharing his thoughts on T2. You can follow him on Twitter at @RipCityManiac and his work at Stumptown Footy.