Oregon State, belied by their 2016-17 record, looked the best team that Sounders FC 2 faced this preseason. Despite this, S2 were able to put together their most complete performance of the year. They were not as dominate or dynamic in possession as they were against the University of Portland, but they were, while not perfect, much improved on defense. The CDM pairing in particular was much more effective.
Balance is the key in central midfield
The most improved player from last week was the trialist defensive midfielder who has been wearing the ‘88’ jersey. Last week he was paired with Lorenzo Ramos in midfield and the two of them struggled to offer any cover for the backline. Both Ramos and ‘88’ wanted to be the more forward of the defensive mids and this left S2 wide open when they turned the ball over.
The two of them may learn to play together yet, but with a new partner in midfield ‘88’ looked much better and the whole team was able to deal with counters more effectively. ‘88’s harrying defense consistently created turnovers in midfield and slowed down attacks, and with a more disciplined partner the times where OSU broke his pressure didn’t lead to wide open breaks.
‘88’ was also able to show off his offensive ability in the game. He provided good service from set pieces and it was his superb ball from outside that resulted in S2’s lone goal.
Number 30 is a Number 9
The other standout of the afternoon was the man who turned in ‘88’s ball, Javorn Stevens (I’m gonna be honest again, it wasn’t clear who actually put the ball in, but I’m 95% sure that it was Stevens). It was a simple finish into an open net and honestly, it was the least impressive part of this play.
Stevens’ ability to hold onto the ball and bring teammates into the play is so impressive. One memorable sequence saw Stevens, recognizing S2 was a bit pinned back and in need of a release valve, drop 30-40 yards into his own half to provide an option. He got in a position that made the pass out of the back easy and once he had the ball held onto it in traffic for about 3 seconds. Stevens then found a streaking Irvin Parra to start a very dangerous break.
The young Antiguan just has a natural instinct when it comes to keeping hold of the ball. In this match Stevens also showed the ability to beat defenders one on one, which is something he hadn’t shown previously. Stevens is going to be a big part of what S2 does this year, and, though the sample size is small, he looks one that will eventually be with the first team.
The middle of the backline is still a weakness but may be improving
S2’s centerbacks have struggled historically and so far this preseason. Things got a little bit better against OSU with some promising looking trialists starting as the center-halves. They wore the numbers 43 and 53 and were both very adept at passing out of the back. ‘43’ in particular was calm on the ball and consistently, and seemingly easily, broke the pressure of Oregon State with incisive passes.
While there were still a few miscommunications, it was better. ‘43’ took charge and vocally directed the shape and movement of the backline.
Players all over the field had trouble judging the flight of the ball on the day, which was punctuated by exceedingly strong gusts, and S2’s CBs were no different. They were both bit by the wind a couple of times and needed to better adjust their play to account for it.
Despite the improvement at CB and CDM, S2 were still vulnerable defensively against a college team. The next team S2 faces will not be a college team but a group of professionals and they do not look ready to stop the attack of a USL side.
On the plus side, S2 is really starting to come together in the attack and they do look ready to score on USL teams. The first few months of S2’s season seems set for a whole lot of goals.