Like many I've been jonesing for some Seattle Sounders FC soccer. Sure its only been a few weeks, but I miss the boys in Green. Today offered up the opportunity for me to take in both the U-18 and the U-16s just prior a break at the third of their season.
For the low price of 5$ parking, and the dollar for a hot apple cider I got to watch kids play with Sounders crests on their chest. A few might possibly be the future of their club. About a dozen ECS members showed up as well, but the rest of the crowd were family and friends of the Sounders Academy and Crossfire.
I'm going to mainly discuss the U-18s, not because they won while the U-16s lost 4-0, but because if there is talent that we may see in a few Reserve, Open Cup or CCL games next year it will come from the 18s. The youngsters just have much further to come before we see them.
Despite not getting to see Sean Okoli (6 goals in 7 appearances) the game was still worth seeing. Seattle plays quite similar to the big club, not based on amplifying the talent of the players on the pitch, but with the system of flank speed, low crosses, and yes a fairly hollow middle.
Seattle played a 4-2-3-1 by my eyes, with the target and withdrawn man switching spaces quite a bit. In the first half that pair was Darwin Jones (3 G in 8) and Dominique Dismuke (2 G in 7). Both displayed decent footwork and vision, and possessed speed that lent them to leaking outside on occaission as well. The second half saw Glenn Paden (0 G in 4) come on for Dominique. He was more physical and stayed up more like a target man, but not for his height, mainly due to his ability to hold the ball up.
The most intriguing players to my eyes (admittedly only 90 minutes all from the sidelines) were the two Center Mids and the right back. All three played 90, and the winner was a PK put away by Troy Peterson (1 G in 8). Peterson and his partner in the midfield,
Yordan Rivera (0 G in 4) Nick Palodichuk (wearing #5 today, normally #3) were both strong defenders in one-on-one situations, generally preventing play from coming against the Sounders through them. At any moment either or both could come forward and enter the attack. While Troy did that more often than Nick either are capable of creating via the short pass, or switching play to the opposite side of the pitch.
For those 90 minutes I watched the outfield talent that stood out the most was the right back, DeAndre Yedlin. He was a solid defender both positionally and in man situations, but he also possessed strong passing skills, great speed with a vision and willingness to press the attack. He would occasionally dive into the center of the 18 from the elbow, leaving the counter exposed, where he could steer the offense like a CAM - as a RIGHT BACK. He also had great tactical awareness correcting the wide mid and forwards when neither were available in an actual wide position.
This glimpse at the U-18s would be remiss without words on Ryan Herman (3 GA in 7). The towering keeper also possesses a thundering voice that commands all layers of the Sounders team. He's a good stopper of shots as well, with a great wingspan. His distribution both by foot and hand is great as well. I find it harder to judge keepers than outfield players, probably because it is so different, but what little I know says that he is very good for his level, and possibly the next in a line of strong Washington products at the position. His bio makes it clear that others find him talented as well
I stood with ECS for the U-16s, and so didn't get the details as I did for the 18s. But I do want to call out one player, and not a Sounder. You see the ECS sang strongly the entire match, all dozen of them, but the results were not in the Sounders favor. Crossfire Keeper Mike Arguello took his team's success (they moved into first in Division with the win) to put his finger to his lips and look over and shush us. It was bold, and yet totally appropriate. He had a great game. Good on him.
Nine game into their season the U16s sit in second in their division with a 3-1-1 record with +1 GD after a 4 - nil drubbing. Overall they are 6-2-1 with a +3 for 2.11 ppm. The older Academy team is 4-0-1 in division with a +8, with a 6-0-3 overall. They have a +14 GD overall as well and a 2.33 ppm. Seattle's next several games are in warmer climates with the next chance to see them locally being when they play at Crossfire in January. But we'll have more glimpses of the future over the offseason.