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Sounders Reserves Player Review

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Michael Tetteh has continued to show improvement, even if it doesn't always show up in MLS games. (Photo courtesy of SoundersFC.com)
Michael Tetteh has continued to show improvement, even if it doesn't always show up in MLS games. (Photo courtesy of SoundersFC.com)

Since not many were able to go to the Seattle Sounders Reserves win over the San Jose Earthquakes I thought to expand a bit on the live blog and collate some comments made there and other thoughts I had on the lesser seen players. Now, since Sigi Schmid uses a lot of player rotation there were two subsets of players - the seen and unseen.

Seen: Nate Jaqua, Servando Carrasco, Zach Scott (though at LB), Patrick Ianni and Roger Levesque (at RB)
Unseen: Sammy Ochoa, Michael Tetteh (both LW & LB), Mike Seamon, David Estrada (RW & CAM), Josh Ford and Taylor Graham
Academy Kids: Aaron Kovar, Ian Lange, Austin Sweeney, Dominique Dismuke

I'm heading to practice today to follow-up on Sammy Ochoa because of the unseen he's the one most likely to get a significant look at the First Team level through the rest of this season. Starting off with the unseen Senior roster players and then getting some feedback on the two Academy players that played 45 minutes or more from Darren Sawatzky (Academy Technical Director) hopefully this expands your knowledge of a few players that are the future of the team more than the present.

Estrada: With the injury and rest needed lately he recently got a start out in New England, but Monday night was an opportunity to clearly see his improvements without the limits of television. His on-ball technical skills have clearly improved. Estrada worked tight interchanges, crosses and set-plays quite well. He can run down long balls and either one-time cross into the box creating danger, or use his improved ball work to cut in and threaten on his own. Though still slight of build he willingly goes in for the challenge, but his physical attribute is clearly speed. He played both in wide and high on the right and in a CAM-ish role later in the game in a kind of 4-1-4-1. His style of play seemed more Mauro Rosales than any other senior player.

Tetteh: The left back of the future started the game as the left wing. As usual in this role his dribbling skills and touch were quite strong. Most of his work was running onto a ball in space and using his foot skills. He's quite fast and can gain separation even with the ball at his feet. His shorting passing wasn't as crisp, but crossing from deep positions created several threats. When he moved to the left back his speed had to make up for a few positional issues. His one-on-one defense was at an acceptable level, but his natural instinct to get forward creates some issues in the shape of the team. If he becomes a full back it will be James Riley like with stronger attacking ability.

Seamon: Early in the game he was more of a box-to-box guy ala Evans and Friberg. After the Carrasco injury he moved back to more defensive role. Sigi likes to have one of those connecting players who moves the ball from side to side well while challenging defensively preventing quick counters up the middle. His short to medium passes were strong at the level of play. Defensively he displayed some strong skills. His speed is more Friberg and his size more Evans.

Ford: There were only two Earthquake shots that really challenged Ford and it went in the net. One that was a pinball like play where the ball changed angles rapidly and he was purely beaten. There was another moment in the second half were he left his line early and had to use both reflexes and willingness to get in there physically. He disrupted the play, made the stop and then grabbed the free ball. Three other shots saved were fairly simple. Ford saved all of them cleanly. With veterans in front of him he didn't need to command the line much. Almost all of his distribution were long punts, really long punts. Service with his foot was strong, but I'd like to see more of his throwing or rolling it out to see what he can create that way.

Due to the Academy players youth, fewer minutes that I've seen I connected with Sawatzky over email to get his feedback on the two that played the most.

Aaron Kovar: Is a Stanford commit, reigning Washington State Gatorade Player of the Year and USA U-18 callup. He returns to the U-18 Sounders team and has 44 minutes in Reserve league action already. He played 51 minutes all at left wing. From Sawatzky "Kovar is a excellent 1v1 dribbler and he gets behind defenses and whips good balls in. He follows Zakuani and is similar in his approach."

Ian Lange: Came on at the half at right back, a replacement that shifted Scott to pair with Graham in the center. Lange has two goals in three games in Academy play this year and is a Washington Premier alumni. He has one moment where his dribbling wasn't just bold, but successfully created space. It was a high risk move that coaches hate, but could belong in a highlight reel. He's a larger frame and could fill out like Tyson Wahl. From Sawatzky "Lange is a very good defender and his technical ability is building.  He is comfortable on the ball and it was a great opportunity for him this past Monday night."

The other two academy players got 14 and 3 minutes and I want to see more of them at this level before I judge. Honestly, judging youth players isn't just guesswork/projection, but it also gives me an odd feeling. Those that get a significant run with the Reserve team are displaying skills that the team feels is at a high level and fits the full technical evaluation (Senior and Academy staff) as ready to take those early steps towards a probable pro-future.

One of the things that stood out to me was the on-pitch coaching by Graham and Levesque. They worked with every Academy player that made an appearance. They were clearly comfortable in this role and may point to a post-player future for either of them. I also asked Sawatzky his thoughts on those two's presence.

"Both Roger and Taylor have been great professionals for years. The Academy boys are very lucky to be exposed to veteran players that know what it is to play at the college and varied professional levels.  Both Roger and Taylor are excellent "locker room" professionals and this definitely helps the growth of talented young players."

The confluence of injury, fitness and preparation for a Playoff run by the First Team meant that there were more openings than usual for Academy players, but this isn't an indication in a change of philosophy for the team. But those opportunities give the identified players a moment to "show their promise."

Next Game: Sounders Reserves (8-1-0) at Chivas USA Sunday Oct 23rd. The Academy has a two game weekend at Starfire on Friday 21 October (5:30 PM for 18s) and at 11 AM Sunday the 23rd.