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2018 S2 player review: the MLS loanees

These players were under contract with the First Team, but played significant roles with Sounders 2.

With the final season of USL play in the books (hello, USL Championship!) we take a look at how players performed on the field for Sounders 2 in 2018. S2 had a whopping 41 different players take the pitch this season, so we’ll be breaking these evaluations up into easily identifiable groups.

Those groups are: Players on MLS contracts playing down, direct S2 signings, adult S2 players eligible for Homegrown Player deals, teen S2 players eligible for Homegrown Player deals, and Sounders Academy members with at least five appearances.

Let’s begin our 2018 retrospective by looking at how players from the first team fared down in the USL. All of these players will have faced the unusual challenge of having been sent down to play with S2 without training with them regularly (it is not uncommon for MLS-contracted players to only have one training session with their fellow starters before a USL match).

For this list, we’ll only be looking at players who played at least five matches with S2.

Calle Brown – GK

Stats: 21 matches started, 40 goals conceded, 63.6 percent save rate

This might sound strange, given the stats above, but Brown actually showed tremendous improvement in goal for S2 over the course of the year. The club’s regular starting goalkeeper, Brown showed a big increase in his shot-stopping ability and even managed a penalty save.

The issue, though, was that Brown seemed to be a player with a low ceiling, so his improvement under goalkeeping maestro Tommy Dutra could only take him so far. Brown struggled with distribution at times and also likely suffered due to a constantly-changing young back line.

2019 outlook: With his option declined by the first team, Brown is the type of player who might find himself a spot on another USL squad where he could fight for minutes. He may have to take a year in USL League One, however, after a year with S2 hurt his stats.

Tony Alfaro – CB

Stats: 14 matches started, 21 fouls conceded, five yellow cards, one red card (double-yellow)

Despite starting fewer than half of the season’s matches, Alfaro finished seventh on the squad in terms of fouls conceded in 2018. While he never appeared outmatched at the USL level, it seemed as though Alfaro had trouble gelling with his S2 counterparts. Discipline issues gave away important free kicks and kept Alfaro from being a positive influence on other young players.

One positive from Alfaro’s game comes back to what Sigi Schmid said about him when the club drafted the centerback in 2016; the 25-year-old was very comfortable with the ball at his feet and played a number of impressive long balls forward that helped spring attacks for S2.

2019 outlook: Another player who had his contract option declined, Alfaro is linked with Chivas de Guadalajara in Liga MX. While Alfaro would be hard-pressed to fight for starting minutes at Chivas, his best opportunity to start does not look like it currently involves top-flight soccer.

Henry Wingo – LW/CM/RW

Stats: 12 matches started, three goals, one assist

Now for some good news. When a player like Wingo comes down to S2, the first team is hoping that he’ll look dominant. Wingo did, but showed areas of his game that are in need of refinement. His foot speed remains tremendous and his ability in distribution was impressive (quick, incisive passes from him often put S2 on the front foot entering the final third). Still, his finishing was poor and his first touch occasionally got him in trouble.

A game against San Antonio FC on August 11 provides the best sample size of Wingo for S2. The winger scored a brace, both times maneuvering through a pile of defenders to score. He also hit a slow penalty that was saved at the right post by Diego Restrepo and had two other gilt-edged chances that he could not put away.

2019 outlook: Wingo is the sort of player who could use extra time down with S2 to continue to refine his game and develop his confidence. The level of play in the second division doesn’t match MLS, but young players need minutes and at 23, Wingo is entering a critical phase of his career where he can either grow with S2 or wither on the vine.

Bryan Meredith – GK

Stats: Nine matches started, 18 goals conceded, 51.4 percent save rate

Like Brown, Meredith had difficulty adjusting to the back-line woes of S2 and distributing the ball in the odd sight lines of Cheney Stadium. Faced with a number of difficult shots and at times a man on an island, Meredith dutifully shouldered his share of matches in goal at the USL level.

2019 outlook: The club has confidence in Meredith as its number two keeper and at 29 years old, Meredith seems content to stay that way. Having had his contract option exercised for 2019, Meredith will return to the first team (and likely to S2 several times).

Alex Roldan – M

Stats: Eight matches started, one goal, one assist

In his rookie season, Alex Roldan wasn’t too shabby as far as appearances were concerned. Roldan had 19 appearances in Major League Soccer, to go with his eight in USL play. That’s approaching a full season of work, but the former Seattle University man seems like he could benefit from additional time on the pitch in the early stages of 2019.

With S2, Roldan was asked to help control the midfield for the club, a role he played with gusto. The rookie was clearly unafraid to play the ball forward, something he did with nearly 41 percent of his passes. That sort of aggression could benefit S2 and could help Roldan figure out the next level of his play as he transitions into his sophomore season.

2019 outlook: While the first team obviously has its eyes on Roldan as a depth midfielder (and late-game substitute), time with S2 may help Roldan improve his field vision in the professional game as he looks to make a bigger impact in the first division.

Lamar Neagle – F

Stats: eight matches started, four goals, 13 shots

Federal Way’s favorite son finally got a chance to play professional soccer in the 253 down at Cheney Stadium in 2018, and everyone benefited. By the time Neagle hit the S2 starting lineup, the club had already been reduced to one other option at striker (David Estrada). Neagle’s presence was a catalyst for improved late season play by S2, even if the playoffs were already out of reach.

With a tremendous strike rate and a fierce ability to compete for the ball, Neagle gave on the job training in courage and tenacity to the youngsters in S2 who were looking for guidance toward a shot with the first team.

2019 outlook: With the MLS Sounders declining his contract, it seems likely that Neagle’s days at CenturyLink are done. The four-time Sounder (a record, we’re pretty sure) only made six appearances for the first team in 2018, with zero starts. That doesn’t mean, however, that Neagle doesn’t have anything to offer the organization. While he certainly will be well within his rights to try the free agency market (and at $99,000 a year, who could blame him?), if the market in MLS is soft for the 31-year-old, one might hope that the club will offer him a similar coach/player gig like they gave to Estrada this season. Neagle has a bunch of wisdom, competition to younger players and, most importantly, goals to offer to S2. Every effort ought to be made to retain his services if he is willing to play in the USL Championship in 2019.

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