The Portland Timbers are looking like a winning franchise from top to bottom this season. It’s time to show some love to the (so far) highly successful Timbers 2 of the United Soccer League. The USL is the equivalent to the NBA G League or Triple-A baseball. It’s the second tier of American (and Canadian) soccer. The league is divided into East and West conferences and currently has 33 teams in total.
USL teams are commonly affiliated with an MLS parent club, the same as they are in the baseball and basketball leagues mentioned above. A USL team can be a useful resource for an MLS team for many reasons. Players from the first team (the MLS team) can play in USL games when they are coming back from an injury or if they simply need to get more game time for whatever reason. Most American players in the MLS have, at some point, played in the USL.
A lot of MLS franchises use their USL team strictly as a developmental platform for young players who have come through the ranks of the youth system but who aren’t ready to make the jump to the MLS team. In the past few seasons, Timbers 2 has tried to combine young players who show potential with senior players from the MLS team to find success but it hasn’t worked very well until now.
Just like the first team, the first and probably most important difference in the Timbers 2’ 2018 season is that there is a new coach at the helm. New Zealand native Cameron Knowles has been an assistant for the Timbers since 2012 and has been involved with the USL team since its inception in 2014, but only took the head coaching reigns for the first time this season.
Next, the team has gone out and signed several older players who bring professional experience from elsewhere. Even if they may not be considered as prospects for the first team they have experience and confidence that rubs off on the younger players.
After 13 games, Timbers 2 sit 4th in the Western Conference. In first place is Real Monarchs, who are the USL affiliate of Real Salt Lake. In 2nd and 3rd are Phoenix and Sacramento respectively; both teams are independent from MLS clubs. Timbers 2 team has consistently mixed in first-team players like Vytautas Andriuškevičius, Dairon Asprilla and Bill Tuiloma to compliment off-season signings Josh Phillips and Jimmy Mulligan. Then they add homegrown players 2018 draft picks Eryk Williamson and Foster Langsdorf to the mix. With such a large pool of players to choose from, the lineups have changed on a game-to-game basis but it hasn’t seemed to break any rhythm.
Leading the team with six goals is Foster Langsdorf who is coming off an amazing college career at Stanford that included back-to-back-to-back National Championships as well is becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in PAC-12 competition. Second in goals is a tie between 20-year-old Augustine Williams and 21-year-old Victor Arboleda, both with four.
Timbers 2 game days at Providence Park are obviously vastly less populated than for MLS games, but the team is making the Timbers organization and the rest of Portland proud, or at least they should be. Winning should be universal for the whole club and Timbers 2 aren’t disappointing.