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Reshuffled S2 lineup hangs three on LAG II

Coach Hendrickson’s slightly risky lineup change pays dividends in great S2 performance.

Irvin Parra celebrates one of his goals against LAG II
Quinn Width / Sounders Community Trust

Seattle Sounders FC 2 came out on Saturday against LA Galaxy II with a bit of a different look than we are used to. Coach Ezra Hendrickson made the decision to break up the midfield pairing of Francisco Narbón and Ray Saari that has come to define S2’s season so far in order to move Saari into the middle of the attacking band of three. It was certainly a defensive risk to breakup that midfield buzzsaw but Lorenzo Ramos was able to come in and deputize fairly well in the middle and pushing Saari up proved too much for the LAG II backline to handle. The change worked offensively and defensively as S2 won 3-0.

S2 started the game well and were clearly the better team in the first half. That said neither team really threatened the goal in the first 45’. When things really broke open for S2 was when Irvin Parra moved up top from out wide. The combined pressing of Saari and Parra was suffocating and it quickly paid dividends for S2.

Just a few minutes after Parra moved up top S2 got their first goal. S2 won the ball back about 30 yards into their offensive half and the ball found its way out to Denso Ulysse on the right. Ulysse had space to run into but opted to put in an early cross. The cross was dangerous and found Azriel Gonzalez at the back post. He headed it back across goal where Parra was able to chest it into the net.

S2 got their second goal just minutes later in the 69’. Parra was able to intercept a LAG II pass in the 18 after Saari applied some pressure to the LA center back. From there it was a simple pass to Saari who tapped the ball into an open net.

S2 good and truly finished LAG II in the 74’ when pressure again forced a bad pass out of the LA backline which was intercepted by Charles Renken. Renken’s cross was deflected but Saari was able to get to it first. He than sent a brilliant little lay-off pass the way of Parra who slammed the ball off the goalie and the crossbar into the net.

There is now no doubt that this year's S2 team is better than last year’s.

Notable Performers

Ray Saari (AM)

In a new role, playing as more of a No. 10 than his customary No. 8, Saari was excellent. He didn’t have nearly as many touches as usual but the touches he did have wreaked havoc on the LA backline. His harrying style that breaks up play in the midfield when played further back became oppressive as he constantly broke up passing lanes and nipped at the heels of LA’s center backs. S2’s last two goals came as a direct result of that relentless pressure. Saari also got to show off a bit more of his creativity, which he shows little bursts of as an No. 8, but often sticks to safer options. With a little better finishing from Javorn Stevens, Saari could have had an assist or two more. Saari’s future is still most certainly as a CDM but seeing that he has a larger range of passes bodes well for his potential to move his game to the next level.

Irvin Parra (AM/FWD)

Parra had a bit of a mixed game. His influence out wide has continued to wane this season and he was lucky not to be sent off for a dangerous tackle in the 37’. All of that aside, when he moved up top early in the second half, he was an absolute terror. His short bursts of pressure are much more effective up top and he has become excellent at holdup play. He continues to improve and is developing into quite the bruising center forward type. If he continues to commit himself to learning to play up top there may be a future for him in MLS yet.

Denso Ulysse (RB)

Ulysse had a Joevin Jones-esque performance on Saturday. He was highly involved in the offense and at time seemed to be playing more as a winger than a RB. He completed 42 passes with 88% accuracy, a majority of which were in the attacking half. He combined well with Parra in the first and Renken in the second and kept the attack flowing on the right side. His crossing was great all night and S2’s first goal was largely created by his excellent back-post cross. He did this all while not putting a foot wrong defensively. His speed allows him to recover and an incredibly impressive recovery in the 58’ showed just how well he can seemingly cover two positions.

First Team call up power rankings

  1. Ray Saari (-)
  2. David Olsen (-)
  3. Irvin Parra (↑2)
  4. Denso Ulysse (NEW)
  5. Sam Rogers (↓2)

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