It's a busy weekend in Sounders nation with the 1st team taking on Dallas way out in Frisco and Seattle Sounders FC 2 down in Starfire Sports against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (that's too much 2). Last week S2 was one of just six teams that played in the USL's opening weekend. This weekend there are 12 games for the 24 team league.
MLS owned teams in USL are still new, so our check with AtlantisB over at Eighty-Six Forever is mostly questions about philosophy rather than the specifics of the team. Here are Three Questions for the S2 match at 4 PM Sunday.
SaH: With the Whitecaps having an Academy that's used to playing up due to their PDL side being fully integrated into the organization will Vancouver be more on the "development" or "winning" spectrum of MLS owned USL sides? At this time the team has 13 direct signings, how many came through the MLS drafts, Vancouver's Academy and from just plain scouting?
86er: The primary purpose of the Thundercaps will be development for both the senior and national team. Although the Whitecaps have shown an ability to nurture homegrown talent, with 8 senior team players fitting that designation, the team emphasized its commitment to player development by hiring Alan Koch to oversee the Thundercaps management. Koch has a track-record of developing young players at the university level and the Whitecaps believe he can continue that process at the pro level. Although the roster is not fully complete, the influence of Koch is already evident with several signees already having played for Koch at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Of the 13 signed only to USL contracts, 6 have academy/residency experience, 4 are former draft picks (3 from 2015), 2 are local players, and the 1 international is Barcelona FC product Victor Blasco, who played for Koch at SFU.
SaH: ThunderCaps, ThunderCaps, ThunderCaps HOOOOO!!! - Sorry, I got distracted. Why the amazing nickname?
86er: We were actually trying to figure out who first came up with the name and we believe it was a regular contributor on the EightySix Forever forum CalgaryRik. The nickname actually comes from where VWFC 2 will be playing their home games: Thunderbird Stadium. As S2 fans might be a bit disappointed with the lack of creativity with naming the developmental teams, Whitecaps fans felt that the USL side deserved its own nickname. I believe that the day the team was announced the nickname was put into use. There was talk about having the players enter the stadium with AC/DC playing in the background, but the Whitecaps were unable to obtain the proper copyright paperwork!
SaH: Is there a player that S2 fans should be wary of come Sunday?
86er: As the Thundercaps are seen as an opportunity for players to develop, expect to see young, fringe, Whitecaps players see some minutes. Attention should be on the midfield Sunday where highly regarded homegrown players Marco Bustos (18), Kianz Froese (18), and Ben McKendry (22) should impress. However, the suspension to Manneh for the Portland Timbers game might mean Bustos plays for the senior team and is thus not available for the Thundercaps. Although not discussed much, because of his young age and recent signing, Honduran midfielder Deybi Flores (18) would be a player to keep an eye should he play.
Keeper: Marco Carducci
Defense: Ethan Sampson, Jackson Farmer, Christian Dean, Jordan Haynes
Midfield: Ben McKendry, Mitch Piraux, Brett Levis, Kianz Froese, Tyler Rosenlund
Striker: Caleb Clark
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86er: The goal of the ThunderCaps is to provide additional minutes for the fringe and injury returning players and transition players from the academy to the professional ranks. What are the primary goals of the Sounders 2 team during their inaugural season in USL?
SaH: The dual goals are development and community involvement. They get the second by having a fan Trust own 20% of the team. It's a pretty nifty little thing. The rules are also a bit looser at Starfire, so there's smoke without arrests now. The first part means that S2 won't be a place for regular 1st teamers to get minutes for fitness or injury recovery, instead it will be younger players who head down to the 2 to get time. Last week that meant seven kids went down on loan and played to great effect. They are a mix of HGPs (3), GA (2) and draftees (2). But they are also all part of one team. The 1st team and S2 practice together on occasion. Players might participate in both sessions when they are split. It's all about getting more time on the ball for those that need it.
86er: The MLS Sounders are known for their large home crowds. Has the fan interest been high for the USL Sounders and should we expect a similar atmosphere and passion as we see at the MLS level?
SaH: It's a decent Starfire crowd of about 3,000. It happens to be the most passionate of the fanbase, so the atmosphere was quite vibrant in that first match. Still, it is smaller. Everything about Starfire is smaller. That is both nifty and disappointing at the same time. There's a certain wonder about small venues, but I'd love more people get to understand the power of having kids that grow up playing on the streets of your neighborhood growing into pros right in front of your eyes.
86er: Although this is the first game for the ThunderCaps, the Sounders 2 played, and defeated, defending champion Sacramento Republic last week. What were the takeaways from that game and what can ThunderCaps' fans expect for the Sunday version of the Sounders 2?
SaH: It's hard to take too much away from that game. Much of Sac's cup winning lineup was out either injured or on loan. What we learned is that Pablo Rossi has a beautiful free kick; Andy Craven will chase any ball near him; Aaron Kovar has a great cross and Seattle can make defensive mistakes at any level. S2 fans are high on the team right now, it will be a few matches before we can know if that's justified.
Expected Lineup: Charlie Lyon; Andreas Correa, Jimmy Ockford, Damion Lowe, Oniel Fisher; Aaron Kovar, Amadou Sanyang, Giuliano Frano (Canadian!), Victor Mansaray; Pablo Rossi, Andy Craven