Saturday night at 7:30 PM in the stronghold that is Starfire Stadium the Sounders FC 2 begin a new era of soccer in the region. The developmental team of Seattle Sounders FC plays its first official match against the Sacramento Republic. Those Republic won the USL Championship last year and are almost certainly going to be MLS' 24th or 25th team. It is a test for S2. The goal for S2 is to be a developmental team with strong community attachment. But it isn't as if the owners (including many of these readers through the Sounders Community Trust) are used to losing.
Just today the Republic signed Cameron Isawaa and former Sounder David Estrada. The answers were returned before that news.
SaH; Last season Timber keeper Jake Gleeson helped lead Sacramento to a second best defense in the league. Now that he's with Portland full time, who is the keeper and how will they compare?
Ream: Patrick McLain is the new Republic goalkeeper, signed from OC Blues. Though Gleeson may have more raw physical skills, the early indications are that McLain has a great read on the game and is an incredible shot stopper as well. I wouldn't expect the Republic to have any significant dropoff with "Die Hard" in goal.
SaH: Leading scorers Rodrigo Lopez and Thomas Stewart both return do they work in a partnership, or are they more solo scorers?
Ream: Rodrigo Lopez and Tommy Stewart both benefited from the excellent hold up play that Justin Braun and Adam Jahn provided last year. Though they both took their goals extremely well, the target forward position in Preki's empty bucket 4-4-1-1 was extremely important. If you watch a lot of Lopez's and Stewart's goals last year, you'll see a lot of space for both to run with the ball and take shots. This was by design as Braun and Jahn usually occupied both central defenders for the opposing squad. Though neither Braun or Jahn had amazing goal scoring seasons, it could be argued that their play was invaluable for the Republic's success. That being said, this is somewhat of a moot point as both players are injured and will not feature this weekend.
SaH: What type of coach is Preki?
Ream: Preki is a taskmaster - in a good way. The former U.S. international demands the most of his players, but they are among the most fit in the entire league, which helps him run his system. In the bucket 4-4-1-1, both outside backs begin the kickoff at midfield, and are frequently more of attackers than defenders. Preki's side usually has more of the possession, but it's usually not that big of a deal when outside backs James Kiffe and Emrah Klimenta are caught going forward because one of the central midfielders - either Ivan Mirkovic or Octavio Guzman - will drop back to mitigate the impending attack. Preki loves his inverted outside midfielders to cut inside (ironically, the Twitter name of academy director Rod Underwood is @cutinside) to venture into the middle of the field to let the outside backs get forward in the attack. The system requires intense fitness, but Preki's sides constantly work on that in training along with switching the point of the attack.
Republic Significant Absences (injury, national team duty, etc): MVP finalist Rodrigo Lopez (right hip sprain), USL Defender of the Year Nemanja Vukovic (hernia surgery), top goalscorer Tommy Stewart (foot surgery), and Max Alvarez (pelvic injury)
Republic Projected Lineup: (from left to right, 4-4-1-1) Patrick McLain, James Kiffe, Bilal Duckett, Mickey Daly, Emrah Klimenta, Gabe Gissie, Ivan Mirkovic, Octavio Guzman, Gabe Gonzalez, Adnan Gibeljic, Justin Braun.
There is no reverse. Those will be intermittent for the USL season.
S2 Project Lineup: (left to right 4-2-3-1) Charlie Lyon; Dylan Remick; Damion Lowe, Jimmy Ockford, Oniel Fisher; Duncan McCormick, Amadou Sanyang; Aaron Kovar, Pablo Rossi, Sam Garza; Andy Craven
If Rossi's paperwork doesn't go through expect Garza to play centrally with Darwin Jones starting. Craven probably drops to the wing. Other bubble starters would be Andy Rose, Victor Mansaray and Aaron Long could get play as well. It's hard to guess at a pattern when there is no pattern.
Sounder at Heart will host a gamethread/livethread and S2 will stream the game via YouTube.