Two early goals were all it took to down Sounders 2 Wednesday night, and they start their second season with their second straight loss. Much like the senior team, S2 has begun their regular season with two home losses and a hole to climb out of.
Arizona United's attacking front had their way in the first half, embarrassing a fresh defensive four for several clear-cut chances early. Keeper Charlie Lyon and his woodwork were able to defend against the onslaught until the 15th minute, when Chris Cortez sent a whirling cross into the box and at the head of an unmarked Gibson Bardsley, who brained it past a helpless Lyon. Cortez would come free on a botched offside trap ten minutes later to make it 2-0 in a game where the home side never seemed to truly threaten for a goal.
Midfield link with Darwin Jones
The most consistent offensive threat of the night was the long-distance pass to the UW grad, who found seams in AZ's backfield throughout. The trouble was he rarely did anything with the great balls or better runs he made. The ball would run just a bit too fast or Jones would allow a bounce too many, and the opportunity would just vanish into thin air. He certainly received respect from the Arizona defense in the second half, with double teams on a few occasions.
Tony Alfaro with a strong second half
He was at fault in holding the second goal onside, but Alfaro was a steady presence in the final 45. Alfaro was calm and decisive in tough situations. He was also the only threat on free kicks, frequently targeted in front of goal on set pieces. Possibly the team's MVP on the night pending another look at his first half. To his credit, Tobi J'nohope cleaned things up in the second half as well.
Poor defensive marking
I think and hope that some of this can be attributed to unfamiliarity, because AZ was able to stand back and wait for a run, then make an incisive pass throughout the first half. This was in part because the central midfield often left a massive space in front of the defensive band. With no one to challenge, Arizona's attackers stayed patient as passing lanes opened up for them. I'd like to say the defense figured things out afterwards, but their second-half shutout probably had as much to do with an Arizona team content to sit on its wallet rather than improve on a 2-0 lead.
Lack of attacking creativity
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A Sounders team, after winning the ball, consistently looks to push play wide and attack the flanks. But few options develop in the box and the cross finds a defender, resulting in a loss of possession. Over and over again.
This is how things went on Wednesday for the attacking trio of Alihodzic, Mansaray and Jones. Long balls and crosses were the order of the day, and other than the aforementioned Jones runs none of them became anything of substance. Things were made more difficult by coach Yallop's strategy of putting a body on the opponent as soon as a Sounder possessed the ball. The young team was unable to cope with the tight pressure, and the five yellows Arizona sustained will have been worth the three points.