Last night we got a preview of what looks to be a very competitive S2 roster when they opened the UW Spring exhibition schedule with a friendly against the college kids at Husky Soccer Stadium. Here's a recap from memory (which means there I might be misremembering something). There's also some thoughts here from Mike Standish, who was in attendance for the first half.
The last time I was at HSS for a game was in the bitter cold of November's NCAA tournament and last night I got to enjoy the bitter cold of a February night game. Fortunately fellow writer Susie was also in attendance and brought a blanket. Otherwise this game recap would also be doubling up as my obituary. And we weren't the only ones there. Despite being scheduled on a cold weeknight and the fact that it was a friendly versus a college team, there was a crowd of 500-700 people (depending on whose estimates you believe), including a contingent of ECS in the front row.
In front of that crowd the Mockingbirds (we've assigned a nickname to S2) bossed the game — particularly in the first half with a collection of likely starters in the match, when they ran roughshod over the UW defense. The team is still in major secrecy mode and isn't even naming signed players, but we managed to crowdsource most of the first half lineup. They were deployed in something like a 4-2-3-1 with draft pick Andy Craven playing as a lone forward in front of a triangle midfield with Pablo Rossi as a playmaker and Sounders Academy grad Duncan McCormick in a deeper holding role. Legendary trialist #269 was, I think, deployed on the left wing and didn't have a big impact in this game. The first half was really highlighted by Craven, Rossi, McCormick, and the player on the right wing, whose speed and dribbling tore apart the UW left defense multiple times in the first half to create multiple chances, one of which led to a goal. After putting our heads together we decided that that was most likely Sam Garza, who played for the San Jose Earthquakes for a couple of years and last season was with Arizona United.
That first goal created by maybe-Garza was finished by Craven in the 6th minute. And the UNC draftee scored again 4 minutes later when a perfect through-ball from Rossi put him into space to go 1 on 1 with the UW keeper. He finished low and hard to complete his brace. Then the UW defense settled a bit and the chances stopped flowing so freely, but in the 40th maybe-Garza completed his stellar first half by dribbling around the UW keeper on a break to score the third Mockingbirds goal.
At half there was a full line change — as far as I could tell, all 11 players were replaced. The new players included a number of ex-Academy players, including Jamael Cox (who was in the same graduating class as Yedlin and Okoli but wandered the world of low-level pro soccer instead of going to college), Chase Hanson (who just graduated from Seattle U), and Isidro Prado-Huerta (currently at Highline), as well as a number of other trialists whose names we may never know.
The second half was a much more balanced game, with S2 still getting the better chances but not nearly as many, and UW creating a few of their own. There were some additional late subs, including a brief cameo appearance for homegrown senior player Victor Mansaray (who's back from Arizona because he's, uh, still in high school). At the death the increased pressure from the UW finally paid off when on a break forward Justin Schmidt was able to poke the ball around the S2 keeper (who may or may not have been Jake Feener at that point), who'd come out too aggressively on a break, and easily dribble to net for a tap-in.
All in all it was a very good first-half display from a team that's clearly starting to come together as a team, and a mixed second half from what looked more like an unfamiliar collection of players. As it stands now, it's clear that Rossi and Craven are set up to be the offensive core of the team, and I would be shocked if maybe-Garza isn't offered a roster spot given the display last night.
S2's next preseason match is a friendly against Gonzaga at Starfire this Saturday. UW (and its sizable collection of Sounders Academy grads of its own) is next in action at the Timbers 2 on March 13th.