After being summarily dismantled in the final 30 minutes of their opening match of the season, it was important for Sounders FC 2 to put together and execute a 90 minute game plan. They were able to do so and, while it wasn’t the prettiest of games, were rewarded with a 2-1 victory over their southern-lying rivals.
S2 looked to break up the T2 attack in midfield while T2 used fouls by their CBs (both of whom earned yellows and could have earned more) to stop the S2 attack. It was a stop-start affair punctured by the occasional moment of creativity from S2 in the first half. The home side was unlucky to go into the break without a goal.
The second half started much the same but a turnover in the 51’ by Henry Wingo left the S2 midfield out of position and enabled T2 to quickly play through the middle for the first time in the game. T2’s counter found Villyan Bijev at the top of the box and he was able to fire an impressive shot past Tyler Miller to give T2 the lead.
To their credit S2 stuck to the plan after the goal and were able to tighten things back up. By the time the 62’ rolled around it was obvious S2 needed to add another dimension to the attack. They brought on Seyi Adekoya and he was able to provide it.
Adekoya’s speed instantly changed the match, and just two minutes in he was able to burn T2’s backline to get on the end of a Brian Nana-Sinkam long ball. After a settling touch with his head, Adekoya calmly brushed the ball past the T2 keeper to even the score in the 64’. Just a few minutes later a cross from Adekoya caused a mess in the six yard box for T2. After some scrambling the ball fell to Zach Mathers at the far post who tapped the ball in to give S2 the lead.
As T2 looked to equalize in the final minutes of the game they found some success by bypassing the midfield entirely. A couple of ill advised strolls off of his line by Tyler Miller resulted in dangerous chances. On one such walk about Miller brought down a T2 player in the box. Fortunately, he was able to stop the ensuing PK to ultimately preserve the 2-1 victory for S2.
Tyler Miller; Brian Nana-Sinkam, Riley Grant, Sam Rogers, Nouhou Tolo; Ray Saari, Francisco Narbon, Zach Mathers, David Olsen (Seyi Adekoya 62'), Henry Wingo (Shandon Hopeau 75'), Irvin Parra (Felix Chenkam 83')
Mathers was S2’s sole creative force in the first half, and his ideas and swagger were a welcome addition to an S2 attack that struggled to create last week. With a little bit of luck he could have ended the match with 2 goals and an assist. He started the game off brilliantly with a lovely turn in at the top of the box in the 2’. He then had the presence to get his head up and square a ball into Irvin Parra that probably should have been finished by the striker. In the 28’ he again showed his ability when he brought down a long ball from Sam Rogers and made a clever little cut to open himself up for a shot, which he got on target. However, this little sequence also showed an area where he could still do some work. If he had taken just a beat to survey his options he would have seen that he had a wide open David Olsen on the far post. It is odd to say, but sometimes Mathers makes his decisions too quickly.
That said, Mathers sees things his teammates don’t, and he continues to show that he has a creative feel for the game that he is on the edge of being able to harness at a higher level. One more fun little Mathers moment to look at is in the 88’ when he tried to sneak a free kick in the near post and nearly succeeded.
The young Academy standout may have been the best player on the field. His passing from the back was absolutely stunning. The most impressive pass in his arsenal is a flat long ball he plays over the top that more often than not finds its target. The ball he played to Mathers in the 28’ was as deserving of an assist as any. Two more great examples can be seen in the 7’ and 45’ minute.
While Rogers’ passing was the showstopper, he was also very good defensively in this match. He may not have put a foot wrong and is already showing an improved understanding of when and when not to back off compared to his last match. He was solid positionally throughout and all of his clearances were smart and well executed. #TheFuture.
Ray Saari and Francisco Narbón
S2’s defensive midfielders were given one job, make the midfield impassable for T2’s attackers. Ray Saari and Franciso Narbón did that job about as well as it can be done. T2 struggled to move the ball through midfield all game and by the end they had pretty much given up on trying to. Both of the midfielders’ stats bear out just how effective they were. Saari won 7 of 10 duels, had 2 tackles and 2 interceptions. Narbón was even more impressive, winning 12 of 15 duels with 4 tackles and 3 interceptions. Saari continually harried the T2 attackers while Narbón sat back and cleaned up the spills caused by Saari’s pressure. The two worked together perfectly and made life hell for T2.
The one downside is that neither midfielder was able to contribute to the attack (combined they had a total of 8 touches in the offensive third before T2’s goal) and that is something they will have to try to weave into their game in the future. Saari has shown a wide range of passes in previous games and in practice so it seems like something S2 should be able to accomplish.
Best performance by an Academy player
See above: Sam Rogers is an elite centerback in the making.
First Team call up power rankings
- Sam Rogers (New)
- Irvin Parra (↓1)
- Shandon Hopeau (↓1)
- David Olsen (New)
- Brian Nana-Sinkam (↓2)
- Miller is already above MLS average when he is between the posts and has improved in the air since last year. He still needs to get a lot better at judging when to come off of his line.
- Fullbacks are terrified of Wingo’s speed and power but he doesn’t challenge them enough. He needs to add another level of aggression to his game to best take advantage of his talents.
- Nouhou is playing out of control again. He managed to reign it in at the end of last year and he needs to do so again, preferably earlier in the season.