Sounders 2 will have dual roles. First Team Head Coach Sigi Schmid made that quite clear when talking about Ezra Hendrickson taking over as the coach for Sounders 2. The primary goal will be development, but coinciding with that will be developing a competitive environment where the team wins. Winning the USL PRO title may not be the expectation, but having a positive record is.
Ezra's history as a Reserve coach is quite strong. He led the team to a Western Division Reserve League title in 2011 and finishes his time as a Reserve Coach with a winning record. His experience as the defensive specialist on the coaching staff is well known. His work with youth players it what makes him a good fit for S2.
Over the past few years in Reserve League games, various Sounders FC Academy players were called upon to fill the bench, play a few minutes, maybe even get a rare start due to the needs of the 1st Team. Whether it was recent HGP-signing Victor Mansaray, or Jordan Morris, or Duncan McCormick, the top talents from the Academy played up alongside full professionals. They trained with them as well. Hendrickson was their coach during those opportunities.
"He encourages me to do the right things out there every day," Mansaray told Sounder at Heart after Thursday's practice. "He's always trying to get me to improve every day. He worked with me at times after practice - on my left foot, on my right foot. I'm looking forward towards next season."
Those Academy players who play up at times and then return to USSDA play will have advantages over other players at that level.
"It helped my confidence a lot. Being out here is way quicker, faster," Mansaray said. "Going back there it wasn't the same, the game slowed down a little bit. I had to adjust myself and keep it at that faster pace and at my level."
Ezra's foundation with the Academy talents is strong, whether with players at college now that he trained previously or the current U18 players who he coached just last year. Owner/GM Adrian Hanauer has faith in Hendrickson's ability to work with them and mold them into the organization's future.
"He's seen a lot of our Academy players come through. He's run a lot of the Reserve training sessions when the First Team is on the road," Hanauer said today. "He has a great feel for the organization, the players and will probably now start spending more and more time with the Academy to make sure he knows the players all the way down to the 12-, 13-, 14-year-old levels because they are going to be coming through at some point."
While the Sounders had a few names from outside the organization on their list, having someone with strong connections across the Academy and the First Team made sense. Ezra has coached everyone from Designated Players like Clint Dempsey to current UW senior Cody Crook. With the Reserves he experienced players who thought they deserved to be in the First Team XI playing down on a developmental squad.
That will happen at times with Sounders 2 in 2015. Coaching has three core components - development, tactics and personality management. Ezra dealt with all of those over the past six years with Sounders FC and now will place a large emphasis on development, with a few wins coming along the way.
Sounders 2 Notes
- GM Andrew Opatkiewicz said that December-January will feature their next round of announcements with a few player announcements starting in December.
- Sigi Schmid will search for a new First Team Assistant Coach after the Sounders complete their quest for another trophy. He has a few names in mind already.
- Schmid also said that S2 can work to develop potential MLS head coaches.