Photo courtesy of Portland Timbers 2
PORTLAND – Kharlton Belmar tallied in the waning minutes to rally the Portland Timbers 2 to a 1-1 draw against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Thursday at Merlo Field. The erases a three-game losing streak for Portland. Switchbacks captain Luke Vercollone scored the opening goal in the 16th minute. T2 moved to 5-9-3 (18 points) overall and 4-4-2 at home. Colorado Springs is now 8-4-3 (27 points) and remains in fourth place in the Western Conference. The Switchbacks are 3-3-2 on the road and they hold a 1-0-1 series lead against Portland this year. They will meet one more time on Aug. 3 at Merlo Field.
16’ – COS – Luke Vercollone (Mike Seth)
87’ – POR – Kharlton Belmar
Three Things That Mattered:
1. It was looking like the Timbers 2’s losing streak was going to continue, but Portland finally struck in the 87th minute through Kharlton Belmar’s equalizer. Portland second-half sub Villyan Bijev earned a free kick from about 28 yards out and Neco Brett put in a dangerous ball that Switchbacks goalkeeper Devala Gorrick misjudged. Gorrick got a glove on the ball, but Belmar was there to follow at the near right post to tie the score at 1-1. For Belmar, he certainly was knocking on the door all night, whether it was skying Brett’s 44th-minute cross or having his 69th-minute attempt turned away by Gorrick at the near left post. The 2015 USL Rookie of the Year now has three goals on the season.
2. The game’s opening tally at face value appeared to be more a matter of will as Luke Vercollone and the Switchbacks maintained their aggressiveness while T2’s defense was shaky in its clearance attempts on multiple occasions during the 16th minute sequence. The play began with Saeed Robinson’s cross from the right and a deflection that kept the ball near the six-yard area. Vercollone’s first attempt from the near left post was turned away by Portland goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh. T2 could not win the 50-50 rebound as Mike Seth got a head on the ball, directed it back to Vercollone and the veteran midfielder headed it into the far right of the frame for a 1-0 Switchbacks lead. Vercollone would later have a chance to give the Switchbacks some distance in the 58th minute as he made a strong run to gain a couple steps on T2’s defense. He chipped the ball well over McIntosh, but the attempt went just wide left of the frame.
3. Portland center back and captain Rennico Clarke made his second consecutive start as he has worked his way back from last year’s ACL injury. The 20-year-old Jamaican defender had a mixed bag on Thursday as far as his performance. A giveaway in the opening minute to Saeed Robinson put Portland on its heels early, but he also bailed out a teammate later on in the half with an important clearance to prevent a potential Robinson breakaway. During the final 10 minutes, he had a strong tackle to disrupt a Miguel Gonzalez run.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Kendall McIntosh, Portland Timbers 2 – McIntosh was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers Thursday night, and he came up with a number of saves and left his line to prevent several other potential Switchbacks chances to eventually earn a needed point.
Portland Timbers 2 vs. LA Galaxy II – July 16, 5 p.m. ET, Merlo Field
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Seattle Sounders FC 2 – July 10, 8 p.m. ET, Starfire Stadium