It's here. Well, almost.
T2, the Portland Timbers USL affiliate, kicked-off the 2020 preseason Feb. 25 with media day activities which included photo ops, player introductions, and a rollout of the new and improved T2 team at their training facility located in Beaverton.
"Today's a fun day," T2 President of Business K.L. Wombacher said. "We get to see things in action, meet some of the players and new coaches, and it starts to make it real. We've been talking about this for almost two years now, so it's starting to become a reality."
This isn't your granddad's T2 team — actually, in most ways it is. But new to this year's version is location, for the Timber's reserve team has moved from the cavernous confines of Providence Park to the more intimate dwelling that is Hillsboro Stadium.
The team is being run by the Hillsboro Hops organization stemming from a partnership announced this past November, one which put the Hops in charge of running the business operations for the USL Championship club, including marketing, ticketing and sponsorship sales, while the Timbers will continue to own T2 and manage soccer operations for the club.
"We're learning a lot," Wombacher said. "We've got Timbers season ticket holders and a former Timbers employee on our staff, so we've got a little insider knowledge. And the Timbers have been tremendous as far as sharing knowledge and helping us out, but the USL is a much different animal than minor league baseball, so a lot of it is just learning what's required by the USL, and that's where the biggest learning curve is."
Wombacher also said, that while ticket sales have been slowly trickling in, he expects momentum to build as the season gets closer and the community as a whole gets better acquainted with what'll be happening come their first home game, March 22.
"I think it's been a slow start to ticket sales, but a lot of that is, it just took us so long to get ramped up," Wombacher said. "Now we're fully ramped up, so we're excited to see what's going to happen in the next month as we head into March 22, which is going to be a historic event, the first professional soccer game in Hillsboro. Now it's on us to make sure that people are aware and know soccer is coming to the West side."
While Major League Soccer's Timbers are a cut above, the T2 product is quality soccer, and in fact houses reserves that on a whim can be called up to the parent club. Cornelius native and former Glencoe High School student Gio Calixtro, is one of those players, and the veteran entering his fourth season is enthusiastic about the prospects of now playing in his hometown.
"I'm very excited to play in front of some familiar faces," Calixtro said. "I'm looking forward to representing Hillsboro and Cornelius, and I'm excited to see how many people come out and support us."
Calixtro, 19, who was the second youngest player in team history to make his debut with the club, and youngest to record a goal, said he wasn't sure what to expect in regards to turnout, but added that a number of people have reached out to him, saying they're excited to watch him and the team.
Playing in Hillsboro will offer T2 fans a much more user-friendly experience opposed to Providence Park, primarily in regards to parking and convenience. In addition, ticket prices are far more affordable than that of the parent club, and as a result will provide citizens of Hillsboro and Washington County a family-friendly soccer option, right in their backyard.
"People are excited to have access to parking and affordable tickets, and we're going to have a kids' play area and really make it family friendly like we do on the baseball side," said Wombacher.
The team itself finished 10-16-8 and was 14th in the 18 team Western Conference last season, but expectations are high entering this season and veteran defenseman Max Ornstil said he expects the team to be much improved.
"I think we've got a really good group," he said. "We have a few more players than last year, so that helps having some more depth and some more experienced guys. I think it's going to be a fun group."
Ornstil, who played at Santa Clara University from 2012-2015, too said he was excited at the prospects of what playing in Hillsboro might bring.
"One of the coolest things about playing in Hillsboro is going to be having that intimate feel," he said. "Providence Park is definitely a special place, but having a place that's a little bit more unique to us and our fan base is pretty special."
The T2 season kicks-off March 7 against Phoenix Rising FC in Scottsdale, AZ, and the club will play at El Paso Locomotive FC, March 14, before their home opener against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at Hillsboro Stadium.
Season and single game tickets for T2 games can be purchased, as well as information regarding group outings can be found at timbers2.com.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.