The Future's So Bright - Thoughts from Sounders vs. Whitecaps

Sign this man - Photo by Mike Russell

I thought it appropriate to start this post off with a little Timbuk3, since after this afternoon's match, I cannot help but be optimistic about the future of the Seattle Sounders. As you all know by now the team won 2-1 against Vancouver in Casa Grande, but what you may not know was just how great the first 45 minutes looked. Sean Okoli, Kevin Parsemain, Dylan Remmick, and Andy Rose all were eager to impress, and impress they did. Additionally in the second 45, Damion Lowe was the defensive standout along with some solid play from Dzenan Catic and Michael Azira.

More than anything I am extremely happy with the youth that we have on the team, especially in the defensive unit. Remick, Lowe, Ockford, have all looked very strong thus far in training, and I could only imagine what another 1 or 2 years will do for their development as professional soccer players.

But, let's get right to my observations. I've left out Zach Scott and Marcus because we know what to expect with them as the season plays on.

Michael Azira: Azirza played the first 45 minutes in a nontraditional RB position along side Jalil Anibaba. It was apparent that this was not his customary position as he was often given directions to move back, or push up by his partner to the left. Overall though, Azira showed great determination to disrupt Vancouver's attempts to work the ball up the left side, and did well when pushed forward with possession. Overall he had a really solid performance yet again, following the praise he received from Coach Schmid following yesterday's match against San Jose.

Jalil Anibaba: Returning to his natural CB position, Anibaba made it very difficult for Darren Mattocks to get involved in the Vancouver offense. Anibaba won most of his aerial duels and wasn't shy to shout out orders to the back line and midfield when needed. I'm very impressed by his composure in the back. My bold prediction is that Anibaba and Marshall will be the best CB pairing the Sounders have ever had.

Dylan Remmick: For not having seen much of Remmick last year in the reserves, it's difficult for me to appreciate his growth as a player. What I saw today was another fine performance for a budding MLS star. His 1v1 defending was solid, as was his distribution from the back working alongside Zach Scott. The highlight, as you can see below, was his 50 yard run up the sideline that resulted in a beautiful cross to a streaking Kevin Parsemain. It was incredible to see live, and its only one example of his athleticism. We are extremely fortunate to have his depth at the LB position behind Leo Gonzalez. It certainly gives the coaching staff another weapon tactically depending on the team we are playing.

Stefano Rijssel: To put it bluntly I wasn't too impressed with that I saw of Rijssel. He was of course playing on the opposite flank of where I was position so it was difficult to really get a feel for his performance, but from what I could see, I saw a guy who turned the ball over a bit too much, was a bit over aggressive, and seemed out of position a bit too often. With the performance of Parsemain, and even Tan, I don't see how Rijssel makes the final roster.

Fabio Pereira: I genuinely like a lot of what I see in Fabio. He did an excellent job of working the middle of the field with Andy Rose, found himself in the right position to put home his first goal in a Sounder's uniform. I get the feeling that Fabio has good offensive awareness, knowing the space which he should fill, and hears the game well. I do think that at times he struggles when on the defensive side, as he did look lost from time to time trying to determine where he should be, and whom he should be marking. There was also one instance in which he had the opportunity for a 1v1 or to protect the ball and look for an outlet, but he simply waited too long to make a decision, and it caused a turnover. If Fabio plays a bit more instinctively and with more confidence, I think he will blossom even more. One last thing. He needs to continue to perfect the killer pass. He had one that unfortunately isn't shown in the video highlights. There was a turnover in the Vancouver end and Fabio had the ball, turned toward the Whitecap goal and in an instant saw Andy making an inside out run. Fabio quickly split the defense with a perfectly weighted pass to which Andy ran on. Unfortunately Andy attempted to dribble around the keeper instead of confidently ripping a shot to the lower left corner. Regardless, it was a beautiful pass and I hope to see more this weekend.


Andy Rose: I tweeted that he was the terminator. Not only did he go 45 in the first half, he also went about another 20 in the second. Andy plays in a way that is often overlooked and under appreciated. He isn't razzle dazzle, he is not going to kill you with his breakneck speed or cat like agility. What he is going to do is go out there, control the game with accurate passing, disrupt the midfield opposition, and help organize the flow of the offense. Based on that last two games, I expect Andy to see a lot more time this year and be the primary sub for CM needs.

Sean Okoli: He was the best player on the field in the first 45. No doubt about it. I never had the chance to watch Sean with the Academy, or while in college, so today was my first ever time seeing him play. I wasn't sure what to expect and when I saw him slotted as a wide RM, I was a bit confused because I thought he was an out and out #9. I was wrong. What struck me the most, and what I am still thinking about, was his ability to use his body to post up the opposing LB to take possession of the ball, then use his strength and speed to break away and push forward. Additionally he is confident in his 1v1 skills, not afraid to go after the defender. He did that so many times that it was apparent that he had the defender on their heels. As the half wore on, the defender started giving Sean a bit more space when they faced up, afraid that Sean would beat him. His first touch was clean, as were his chest traps. Really wonderful performance. My only advice would be to continue working the left foot, because the 1v1 scenarios always seemed to head right to the endline. If Sean can become more confident with the left and take defenders that way as well, he will do swimmingly.

Kevin Parsemain: Just sign him already. Yea, his performance was that good. The idea of him and Oba together up top makes me smile. Just watch the highlights and you will understand. The first touch on Remmick's cross is ridiculous and it allowed him to take a first time shot after it came down. His almost second goal which was abruptly halted by Jay Demerit also shows his ability to drop a pass off and get in to space very quickly. He also did an excellent job at dropping back to help out defensively. Seriously, just sign him.

Chad Barrett: A bruiser. Chad did a great job of tenderizing the defense so Parsemain and Okoli could do their work. To me, that is what Chad is. He is not super technical, he isn't a speedster. He is just a great counterpoint to a pacey striker like Parsemain or whomever else you pair with him. He is the thunder to the lightning.

Tarek Morad: The second half saw Morad playing in a CB role where I thought he was decent. I certainly liked him more in the RB position from yesterday where he was able to push forward more. He was the defender that got beat on Eric Hurtado's gorgeous goal. Besides that incident Morad was respectable, but his obvious strengths aren't fully taken advantage of in the CB position.

Aaron Kovar: Aaron played LB, did as well as you could expect him to do. The highlight of his day was his continual good service. Be it corner kicks or crosses in to the box after bombing down the left side, the passes were always excellent with good speed and curve. The first corner almost resulted in a goal by Catic.

Damion Lowe: Lowe appears to be very composed and very confident on the ball. Besides one slip up that Hurtado attempted to take advantage of, Lowe was rock solid. I noticed he took adjustments well from Marcus in the back, who on occasion had to correct him on his positioning. His distribution is also excellent from the back, although he can work on the height of some of his passes, as a few were easily intercepted. Great showing again though after yesterday.

Miguel Gonzalez: Miguel didn't get involved as quickly as I would have expected. To be honest, I don't remember him getting a ton of touches on the ball, as Kovar pushed forward a bit too much from the LB position. Besides one nice shot on goal with what looked like the outside of his right foot, Gonzalez didn't do too much more.

Dzenan Catic: Catic had a really solid outing in the middle of the field. He had a great header on goal which unfortunately hit the crossbar, and had a few killer passes to open up the Vancouver defense in the back. I like Catic, and would have no issue if the team signed the 21 year old. Paired up along side Rose, that would be a massive midfield presence.

Long Tan: I haven't been too high on Tan this whole week but he actually had a pretty great game today from the RM position. Good spells of possession and a couple looks as goal, Tan was generally positive in his passes and didn't give up the ball too easily. Again though, I'm not sure how much space there is on the roster for him. As he is considered a forward, I don't see him being picked up over someone like Parsemain.

Kenny Cooper: I'm going to try to be fair to Kenny, but today was just not a good day for him. I've always thought that Kenny at times allows himself to play much smaller than he really is. He is not a banger, looking to use his large frame to his advantage. And when Cooper is played more centrally, it's almost unavoidable that it's going to happen. He and Zavaleta had practically ZERO chemistry up top and it showed. Very few strong runs if any, and only one shot on goal that was deflected by Vancouver. He also again held the ball for too long on multiple occasions resulting in turnovers. His performance yesterday was much better in my eyes and I still think if he is paired underneath Oba and encourage to drift wide, he will be fine. If he is expected to play central, it's going to be a long year.

Eric Zavaleta: Bad. Just bad. There has to be rust he is working off because there is no way else I can explain why his touches were generally way to heavy, his movement lackluster, and his inability to work with his striker partner Cooper. Like yesterday, he had a few moments where his hold up play was solid, but once he plays the ball back/drops it off, nothing else happens. I think he will improve as training goes on but it has certainly been a rough start for him at this point.

Tomorrow I will be attending the morning session once again so stay tuned for more insight. As always, please leave comments, feedback, questions, etc below, or contact me on twitter @soccerdisciple

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