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Recap: Sounders play two friendlies against Mexican opponents

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Seattle drew and won in a pair of split-squad scrimmages against two different Mexican sides.

SOCCER: FEB 05 MLS - Seattle Sounders FC v Sacramento Republic FC Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Seattle Sounders played a couple of 90-minute scrimmages against Mexican sides on Wednesday morning, drawing 2-2 with Club Atlético Zacatepec of Ascenso MX, the second tier of Mexican professional soccer, and winning 2-1 against the Pumas UNAM U-20s in the second game. The first game involved what was close to a first-choice line-up with a few depth players mixed in, including a midfield pivot of Jordy Delem and Danny Leyva, and Harry Shipp standing in for Nico Lodeiro once again as the 10. Notably, Nouhou has continued to appear as the starting left back during preseason.

Game 1: Seattle Sounders 2 - 2 Club Atlético Zacatepec

Danny Leyva’s time in this first game was short-lived, as a high boot from the midfielder connected with an opponent, earning him a red card in the 8th minute. Since the game was a scrimmage, the decision was made to keep the teams even with eleven players on the field for both sides, and trialist Miguel Ibarra came on for Leyva. With Ibarra on the field, Cristian Roldan slid back to the central midfield spot Leyva had previously occupied, and Ibarra took up the spot on the right wing. It didn’t take long after the change for the Sounders to find the net when Nouhou sped down the left side and cut the ball back to Raúl Ruidíaz, who smashed his shot into the top corner after taking a couple of touches. The play was a glimpse of the kind of threat Nouhou could add to the attack with his speed at left back.

Jordan Morris doubled the Sounders’ lead in the 33rd minute after picking up a long ball from Stefan Frei and rounding a few defenders in the opposition’s penalty area, then putting his shot inside the near post. The thirty minutes that followed the goal were pretty quiet, with a save from Frei in the 38th minute being the only notable action until Zacatapec scored in the 63rd minute off of a header that snuck beyond Frei’s reach to bring the score to 2-1. The Sounders made a couple of changes, one in the 75th minute and another in the 81st, bringing on academy player Alex Villanueva for Miguel Ibarra, then swapping Tacoma Defiance’s Danny Robles for Jordan Morris.

In the 88th minute Zacatapec leveled the game at 2 goals a side after earning and scoring a penalty. Following the penalty, Eric Kinzner of the Sounders Academy came into the game for Raúl Ruidíaz in the 89th minute. Kinzner is a centerback, so his introduction to the game also included some players moving around. Danny Robles moved up to Ruidíaz’s position, and Xavier Arreaga stepped up into defensive midfield to allow Kinzner to play centerback. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but it’s safe to assume that Roldan moved back to right midfield and Villanueva moved to the left. Kinzner nearly scored a header as his first involvement, but the game ended 2-2. As these games are most important for building fitness and chemistry throughout the team, it’s important to note that Frei, Leerdam, Gómez Andrade, Arreaga, Nouhou, Delem, Roldan, and Shipp all played 90 minutes.

In the game against the Pumas UNAM U-20s, the team put out an XI with a mix of academy and Defiance players, as well as first team players. Since the games were preseason scrimmages, Leyva wasn’t subject to any sort of suspension and got the start in the second game as well.

Game 2: Seattle Sounders 2 - 1 Pumas UNAM U-20s

The first twenty minutes of this second game saw the Sounders nearly score twice in the 8th and 18th minutes as Justin Dhillon and Danny Robles both had shots saved by the UNAM U-20 ‘keeper before Handwalla Bwana knocked in a bouncing ball off of a Joevin Jones corner in the 20th minute to take a 1-0 lead. The goal came after Bwana and Robles had a nice interchange that led to Robles’s shot in the 18th minute. The goal from Bwana was another mark in the midfielder’s favor, as he’s spent much of the preseason playing as the 10 in the Sounders’ second group. Bwana hasn’t spent any time in that spot with the Sounders, but has seen a handful of games there with Tacoma, and often played in similar areas during his time at the University of Washington and in the Sounders Academy before that.

UNAM evened the game up in the 40th minute when a player finished a cross at the near post. The two teams would go into half-time level, where the Sounders would make one change, swapping Trey Muse for Stefan Cleveland to start the second half. The Sounders took a 2-1 lead in the 61st minute on a breakaway when Justin Dhillon found Danny Robles, who slid his shot into the bottom-left corner. Alex Villanueva subbed in for Dhillon in the 69th minute after a nice shift from the hard-working forward. In the 74th minute the Sounders made their final change, bringing Eric Kinzner on for Chris Hegardt and moving into a back-five for the final 16 minutes. Neither side would score again, but Josh Atencio had an active and successful stretch in the middle of the field playing probing passes for runs from Bwana and Robles.

It’s unclear as to why, but it is notable that Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Shandon Hopeau didn’t appear in either game. No news has come out of any significant injury to either player. The Sounders have no other friendlies or scrimmages scheduled before their Concacaf Champions League journey begins on February 20th in Honduras against Olimpia. The Sounders will continue training in Mexico City at the training center for the Mexican National Teams, Centro Alto Rendimiento, until they leave for Honduras.