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S2 changes head coaches

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New coach led Sounders U17s to USSDA national title

TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders announced Tuesday that the academy’s Director of Coaching Chris Little would be taking the reins of Sounders FC 2 in 2019. John Hutchinson, who had been with the club for two seasons, returned to his native Australia to take an assistant coaching job with A-League expansion side Western Melbourne.

Little was most recently the head coach of the Sounders U17 side that won the USSDA national championship last year. With the signing of Josh Atencio on Tuesday, there are now seven players from Little’s championship team signed to USL contracts.

“Chris won a national championship with the young players, he’s got great experience having been with the college-age players for a number of years,” academy director Marc Nicholls said Wednesday. “He’s also going to continue along as the director of coaching, which I think is very important in terms of merging the programs together to create that player pathway. He knows every single player in the club very well, which is the most important thing.”

Both Nicholls and Garth Lagerwey stated Wednesday that making the USL Championship playoffs is a goal for the club this season. S2 finished 6-21-7 in the USL’s Western Conference in 2018, avoiding a last-place finish thanks to its lone road win of the season on the final match day against the Tulsa Roughnecks.

Little thinks the playoffs are attainable.

“As we go in to this year, those players are now a year older than they were last year,” Little said. “We have a slightly bigger squad of signed players in comparison to last year. Just continuing on the work. There’s the aspiration of getting more competitive. That’s the challenge to our players and our staff. We’ll embrace it and rise to that challenge.”

S2 hasn’t reached the playoffs since the club’s first season in 2015, failing to finishing higher than 12th in a conference that has expanded to 18 teams.

The challenge ahead of Little and S2 looms large, but the new manager is enthusiastic about confronting the challenge as S2 prepares for its season opener against Rio Grande Valley FC March 8.

“(The USL Championship) is a different standard,” Little said. “Playing against adult players, playing against older experienced pros. It’s a big jump for them. That’s an unknown, we don’t know how that’s going to happen, but we’ve come to challenge them. We know it’s going to be difficult, but we’re here to support them in that journey and see how they come out of it.”