Martinique National Team edges Timbers U-23s 2-1 in friendly
PORTLAND, Ore. — In the midst of a busy Premier Development League (PDL) schedule, the Portland Timbers U-23s took a break from league play Saturday for a friendly against the Martinique National Team at Portland’s Buckman Field.
The friendly was part of a training camp in Portland for the Martinique National Team as they prepare to compete in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup. Known as “Matinino,” Martinique received goals from forwards Steve Gustan and Stephane Abaul on either side of halftime to earn a 2-1 win.
For the Timbers U-23s, it was a chance to compete against international players who will soon take the field in the Gold Cup and compete with some of the best players in the region.
“This was a great experience for them,” said Timbers U-23s head coach Jim Rilatt. “We had the opportunity for quite a few players to get in the game and we got a good look at some new guys, who did real well for us. It was a spirited game, so we found out a little more about ourselves. We were grateful we were given the opportunity and hopefully we can do a few more of these, I think it makes for quite the summer experience for these kids.”
Martinique took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute as the match began to settle in. Gustan attacked down the left flank and took advantage of Timbers U-23s goalkeeper Paul Blanchette high off his line and chipped in a floating shot from roughly 25 yards just under the crossbar.
Abaul added a second goal for Martinique early in the second half. He was able to win possession of the ball near the top of the arc as the Timbers U-23s tried to alleviate pressure in their defensive third. Abaul took a touch and quickly hit a dipping ball with his right foot into the back of the net in the 56th minute.
The Timbers U-23s were able to pull one back in the 71st minute. A free kick by forward Will Vitalis into the box from the right side was nearly knocked in by Martinique for an own goal, but was turned away by the left post. Forward Anthony Machionne, who recently finished the 2012-13 season with the Timbers U-18 Academy, was in position for the rebound and drilled a shot into the roof of the goal.
“I thought it was a high-paced game, there was a lot of talent on the field,” said second-year Timbers U-23s defender Evyn Hewett. “It was cool playing against a national team, because then we can see how we stack up. I think having this experience really helps prepare us for the final push of the season.”
The Timbers U-23s, in a tight race for the PDL’s Northwest Division title, will play three games in three days this weekend. But despite the heavy schedule, the friendly was an opportunity to go toe-to-toe with a national team, and one they’ll watch closely over the next few weeks in the Gold Cup.
“It is definitely a really cool thing, and I’ll never forget it,” said Hewett. “We will definitely watch these guys that we went up against, it will be really cool to see them [play in the tournament].”
Martinique, featuring Portland Timbers striker Frederic Piquionne, faces Canada in the opening match of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup on Tuesday, July 7, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The Timbers U-23s close out the month of June on Sunday as they play host to division-leader Victoria Highlanders FC at Hare Field in Hillsboro, Ore., at 12 noon (Pacific).