BEAVERTON, Ore. - It could not have been a more auspicious start.
On Monday, T2, the Portland Timbers' new USL affiliate, kicked off its first practice at the adidas Timbers Training Center in Beaverton.
T2 head coach Jay Vidovich and his assistants led the nascent USL team in the beginning steps of furthering the development of Timbers first-team players.
"We can have young men now in a professional environment where the opportunity is: if they do well on that field," said Vidovich, pointing towards the training field that his T2 players just finished with and, "they'll have an opportunity to be up there with the first team, and that's a tremendous incentive."
The experienced head coach reflected on what he says was a productive first day for the club.
"[I'm] excited the guys gave a tremendous effort out there," he said. "They worked hard. It was a tough one, everybody coming together for the first time, [from] different countries, different places, not knowing names, and with a new coach, new everything. [We] were just excited to be out there again."
So far, Vidovich, who came to T2 after spending nearly three decades running the men's soccer program at Wake Forest University, has spent his time orienting himself to his new home and learning what it means to coach and play for the Timbers.
"Part of the job is to make sure that someone from [T2] makes it to Caleb's team," he said. "So to see the [first team] standard of play, to see what a Gastón [Fernández] looks like in person and what a Nat Borchers looks like...gives me a comparison, a bar to reach for guys I have to work with."
Monday's practice was just the start of a collaborative process that will help fill out the T2 roster and, Vidovich says, hopefully pay dividends for the first team in the future.
"We're testing new waters, bringing in a new team, new club, [new] association," he said of T2's role in developing players for the first team. "This is what we're supposed to do, how we're going to do it, how we're going to work. All of our philosophies are meshed together.
"It's tremendous work from top to bottom."
With new players trialing for the club and others jockeying for positions on the team, Vidovich has to think about what kind of player the club is looking for and who will fit seamlessly into the Timbers system.
While finding such players may seem daunting on paper, Vidovich says that his criteria for a T2 player is actually very simple.
"A player who can play for T1 down the road," he said.
"As we go about the process [of assembling a roster], we're here to win matches as well," he added. "So there may be [situations] where we need a guy who's a little bit older and mature in the locker room who can show the rookies their way around, but for the most part, we're looking for guys who can eventually become a first team player."