By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– On May 19, the Portland Timbers U23 sat 1-1 overall to start the season and it was a little treacherous, roller coaster-like ride at this point as they started a streak that’s nearly two-months in the works.
They started off with three-straight ties to Lane United FC (2-2), TSS FC Rovers (1-1), and Sounders FC U23 (1-1) as they slowly continue to improve as a unit.
Then, at 1-1-3, three-games into the streak, their first win of the streak. A 3-1 win over their rival Sounders FC U23 as they nabbed five more wins in their next six games (5-0-1 since their 3-1 June 13 win over the Sounders FC U23).
Now call it the Aaron Lewis-effect, magic or what have you; but whatever it is, has the Portland U23s sitting in striking distance of Calgary Foothills FC U23 for the Division-Lead with three games left for the Timbers Army and their athletes.
“It’s been fantastic, I don’t know when the last time this program as like nine-,ten-games unbeaten,” said Lewis on the season to this point. “But the credit goes to the guys, it’s really kind of adjusted from some of the early season struggles, giving away some points and recently it’s been not only unbeaten, but they have been wins which has been a big part of their maturity process.”
Timur Zhividze, who was apart of the Lewis-magic this past season being a part of the Corban University Men’s Soccer team, points to the awesome feeling it is to be on this streak after the rough start to the season as the team came together and buckling down for the streak.
But Zhividze too knows that this streak is crucial in terms of momentum entering July 8 and July 9’s big games ahead.
“It’s just been an unbelievable feeling to get going, really early in the season it wasn’t like we weren’t losing, we felt like we should be winning those games that we were tying-in,” said Zhividze who has four goals and an assist on the season. “So it feels really good to get the performances that we wanted to get, but I’m happy we’re hitting our stride towards the end of the season which will help us a lot playing the number one team twice next weekend and see what happens from there.
“We need to get the results to keep pushing towards the playoffs.”39
Calgary Foothills FC U23, though they currently played one-fewer game then the Timbers U23, currently sit one-point ahead of the Timbers U23 before their game versus Lane United U23 Thursday before these two teams meet up Saturday and Sunday at McCulloch Stadium at Willamette University.
And though there maybe nerves about the big games, there’s also confidence in knowing they can rely on that depth, rely on that momentum and rely on each other to make this dream a reality for them of going to the playoffs.
“It’s going to help us a lot, the main thing is going to help us because it’s a back-to-back game, being able to use every guy on the roster, we have a deep team. So every guy is going to have a role on the team from number one to number 25, everyone is going have a huge part in preparation and there’s going to be different people coming in the big games and different people are going to have to step up.
“And I feel like we’ve been having that success with everybody, doing their part and people are coming in at the right times and doing their job well.”
Speaking of stepping up, with Jordan Farr missing Sunday’s game due to a wedding, Trevor Wilson came in and picked up the win in goal with a three-save performance to help continue the trek that the Portland U23’s are on.
But the Portland-native and DePaul University Goalie was ready for the opportunity to step in when Lewis called upon him
“I’ve been in this position a lot of times you know,” said Wilson on stepping in.”It’s something you don’t get used to, but you get better in time. It wasn’t too bad of a show. I think I did well, I finished well and that’s all that matters.
“You know, he was very solid, he didn’t make any mistakes. He kept it simple with what really we asked him to do,” said Lewis on Wilson. “And so for us to have him to be able to put in a performance like this was huge.”
With Saturday’s match-up being Part One of a Part Two ‘Battle At McCulloch’ the plan is the same that got them to this point, the point in which they were looking forward to all season of battling for a league championship and a playoff spot through their recipe for success for what is to come:
“Just the same thing, we just need to do the right stuff in preparation,” “Just the stuff that we do off the field. Get our bodies right, sleep, rest, eat right, all that stuff, that’ll come in. It starts, it has to start a long time ago, it comes into play every weekend.
“After every game, after every practice, we have to take care of your body and that’s what’s going to help you.”
First kick for both games at McCulloch is at 2pm.
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Photos by Jeremy McDonald