After a first season producing three MLS talents (Craven, Miller, Anderson), a Playoff appearance and off-field drama surrounding the SCT, Sounders FC 2 starts 2016 on Friday night. Their opponent is the most MLS-ready team in North America. Sacramento Republic visit Starfire Sports at 7:30 PM, with SoundersFC.com and associated YouTube channels carrying the stream. The Future starts now.
Josh from Indomitable City Soccer, the SB Nation blog dedicated to the Republic, answers Three Questions. We did not do lineup predictions. The questions were exchanged prior to the Sounders confirming yesterday's news about three more players signing to the USL roster.
SaH: What else can the Republic fans do to show MLS that the city is ready?
ICS: At this point it doesn't seem like there is much that Republic fans can do other than continue to support the team to prove the city's worth to MLS. The pitch has been made and everyone knows why Sacramento deserves to be an MLS city. The fans just need to keep up the incredible support they have already given the team to show MLS that they are here to stay.
SaH: Several of this year's additions are former Earthquakes. How will they integrate into a team that doesn't play thugball?
ICS: There certainly is some Earthquakes blood in the team, both through signings like JJ Koval and loans like Adam Jahn. Coach Buckle and his staff seem to have a specific and mostly attractive style of play that they can instill in the new guys. They are all familiar to some degree with how Sacramento does things, so that should help too.
SaH: Which player won't end the season with Sacramento because they've been snagged by a team playing on a grander stage?
ICS: As much as I would like to see him stick around, it honestly surprises me that Emrah Klimenta has not been scooped up by a team in a higher league. He is likely the best right back you'll see in USL. The fact that he is still in USL while Shaun Francis suits up for the Quakes is strange to me.
ICS: With all the roster turnover from last season it almost seems like this is an entirely new team for S2. Are there any concerns that turnover might result in a lack of cohesiveness and a slow start?
SaH: People going to S2 games wanting wins are likely to be disappointed. There's going to be some fun talent on the side, with Academy kids (some USYNT talents) playing up and first teamers playing down, but the core of S2 is mostly college graduates that will need to learn quickly and show that they are going to be MLS players within two years. Coach Hendrickson said his goal for players on the squad is that within a year or two they move up. He even mentioned that some of the talent let go were perfectly capable of being pro soccer players (many are on USL rosters, just not here), but the organization didn't think they'd be in MLS after another year with S2.
ICS: Last year Andy Craven was a big success story, starting out with S2 and then earning a first team contract. Are there any players you think could do the same this year?
SaH: Of the
seventen on USL deals the most likely to make the step is Myron Samuel. The St. Vincent and Grenadines striker had a stunning debut with S2 scoring twice and assisting once before blowing his knee just before half-time. He will look to follow Oalex Anderson's path from S2 to Sounders in less than a year.
Another interesting talent to track will be Zach Mathers. He's a deep-lying playmaker who fits perfectly into the 4-3-3 that the organization is now running. He's out of Duke where Coach Kerr has experience producing MLS talent.
ICS: Last year S2 made the playoffs in their first season. What are the expectations for this year?
SaH: There is no expectation to make the Playoffs. Everything about S2 should be about developing the most players that can regularly make the 18 at the MLS level. Gone are former MLS players like Aaron Long, Sam Garza and Ashani Fairclough. The only anchor player signed to an MLS deal is Amadou Sanyang. That means the squad will need good fortune to make a run, rather than just be 23-26 year olds in a final year or two of glory.