SEATTLE — In between trips to California and Mexico City, the Seattle Sounders played in a closed-door scrimmage against Sacramento Republic at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday. The preseason game ended with the Sounders winning 6-2 after an approximation of a first-choice lineup played 75 minutes and a second group played a 45-minute period.
When the Sounders made their line change, the team was up 3-1 off of goals from Raul Ruidíaz, Harry Shipp, and Jordan Morris. The final 45 minutes were more of an equal, back-and-forth contest. Justin Dhillon scored a brace and Alex Roldan rounded out the scoring from his right back position, while what appeared to be more of a first-choice Sacramento side that included former-Sounder Jordan McCrary grabbed two goals of their own.
The starting lineup could be pretty close to what we might see against Olimpia on Feb. 20, with Nouhou at left back and Shane O’Neill still holding the centerback spot next to Xavier Arreaga until the arrival of Yeimar Gómez Andrade. Gustav Svensson appeared to pick up some sort of a knock during warm-ups, so Jordy Delem took his spot in midfield, and Shipp filled in as the 10 while Nico Lodeiro is in Uruguay being treated for tendinitis.
The second group was mostly comprised of players who spent all or much of last year playing with Tacoma Defiance, with Joevin Jones being the most obvious exception. Danny Robles did take part in the scrimmage, although not on the right side as he helped Sacramento fill out their squad due to an injury to one of their players.
- It didn’t take long for the Sounders to generate some excitement. In the 2nd minute Ruidíaz put the good guys on the board with an an incredible blast from around 30 yards out. After not having scored from outside the box during his time in Seattle prior to the playoffs, Ruidíaz seems to have found his range. While he only scored the one goal, Ruidíaz was active and looked good in his run out.
- Shipp followed the first goal with a second with little delay, when Leerdam cut the ball back to him at the corner of the 6-yard box and he smoothly finished into the bottom corner of the goal in the 9th minute. Playing in Lodeiro’s typical 10 position, Shipp’s ability to read the game and get into good positions was on display throughout his performance and nearly earned him a brace.
- João Paulo was a pleasure to watch throughout the game as his many talents were evident, with probably none of them standing out quite the way that his beautiful long passing did. That was probably best exemplified in the 35th minute when he hit an absolute gem of a ball that found Leerdam with acres of space down the right channel and a wealth of teammates charging into the box. He picked out Morris running toward the far post and played a ball across the box to him, which was finished easily.
- Just ahead of the Sounders making their own line change, the fresher legs of Sacramento Republic’s subs earned a goal against a Sounders side that looked a little tired in the 72nd minute. The goal came from a great volleyed finish off of a lofted cross following a couple of good chances.
- After the Sounders’ line change, in Chris Hegardt found Shandon Hopeau who then squared the ball for Justin Dhillon casually finished from inside the box in the 78th minute. The Hopeau-to-Dhillon connection created multiple chances, although just the one goal. Dhillon would get a second goal later, although that was more the result of a miscue from the Sacramento ‘keeper.
- Alex Roldan sealed a largely positive performance at right back that involved lots of good work in possession and in the attack by nutmegging the ‘keeper on a goal in the 117th minute of the 120 minute game. The goal came after a spell of possession and a slick pass from Handwalla Bwana, who had a solid performance as the 10 for the second group for the Sounders..
- All the caveats of it being preseason and against a USL opponent aside, it was hard not to be impressed by João Paulo. The Brazilian Designated Player was deployed as part of a double-pivot with Jordy Delem. In the first 45 minutes or so, he was playing more as an 8, joining the attack often and showing the sort of two-way play that should have fans drooling with anticipation. The highlight of his day was that pin-point pass that settled perfectly for Leerdam in behind that set up Morris’ goal. He showed some impressive switching ability and came close to scoring a goal as well. In his final 30 minutes, João Paulo dropped a bit deeper with Delem pushed higher up the pitch. Here he showed a bit more of his defensive bite and drew praise from Brian Schmetzer for his willingness to press as soon as the ball turned over.
- The debate will surely continue to rage on as to how badly another winger is needed, but for now it looks an awful lot like its Cristian Roldan’s position and he acquitted himself quite well in this one. He didn’t get on the scoreboard, but he was doing the things the Sounders surely want. A significant part of that is likely going to be his ability to interchange with Leerdam, who was spending almost as much time in the final third as Roldan was. The arrangement promises to give the Sounders a new look for opponents to worry about.
- Among the reserves fighting for First Team roster spots, it continues to look like Josh Atencio, Shandon Hopeau and Sam Rogers have the inside track. The trio was solid against what looked to be a closer-to-first choice Republic group. Hopeau in particular was a constant danger, was involved in several very good chances and had an assist. Alex Roldan also looked solid at right back, and barring an addition to the team may end up as the backup there. If you’re looking for more of a darkhorse candidate to get a spot, Chris Hegardt looked comfortable as a No. 8 and his continued presence with the first team is one of the surprises of preseason.
Seattle Sounders FC 6 - Sacramento Republic FC 2
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
SEA - Raúl Ruidíaz 2’
SEA - Harry Shipp (Kelvin Leerdam) 9’
SEA - Jordan Morris (Kelvin Leerdam, João Paulo) 35’
SAC - 72’
SEA - Justin Dhillon (Shandon Hopeau, Chris Hegardt) 78’
SAC - 96’
SEA - Justin Dhillon 97’
SEA - Alex Roldan (Handwalla Bwana) 117’
SOUNDERS FC LINEUPS
FIRST GROUP (75 MINUTES) - Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam, Xavier Arreaga, Shane O’Neill, Nouhou; Jordy Delem, João Paulo; Cristian Roldan, Harry Shipp, Jordan Morris; Raúl Ruidíaz
SECOND GROUP (45 MINUTES) - Stefan Cleveland; Alex Roldan*, Josh Atencio+, Sam Rogers+, Joevin Jones; Danny Leyva, Chris Hegardt^; Shandon Hopeau+, Handwalla Bwana, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez; Justin Dhillon
+ Player currently signed to Tacoma Defiance roster
* Unsigned SuperDraft selection or preseason guest player
^ Sounders FC Academy Player