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Sounders 2 vs. OC Blues, Recap: What just happened?

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An energetic Orange County set aside Seattle Sounders FC 2 by a resounding 5-2 margin.

It all seemed so hopeful. After a soporific showing in the first half, S2 were on the front foot. Andy Craven, Carlos Patino, and Victor Mansaray were moving fluidly in front of Orange County's back line. In the 48th minute Mansaray split their defense with a pass to Craven; Craven scored. Minutes later the Georgian was thrust off his feet for a penalty, which he struck left and center into the net and past OC goalkeeper Joshua Cohen. Two goals to nil. In a ten minute stretch, Andy Craven had scored twice as many goals as any other S2 player had the entire year. It went downhill from there.

Blues defender Jackson McCracken floated a ball over Seattle's defense, sending Akwafei Ajeakwa in on a diving header that he scored off the side of his head. Jordan Schweitzer elected to go in for a two-footed tackle against Ajeakwa and earn himself a red card. Orange County equalized, and Seattle's midfield - which had been in a lackadaisical disarray for much of the match - never managed to pull itself together. By the end of the match Orange County managed to put five goals past Seattle's defense.

The best defense is a functioning midfield

A lot of the blame from this one falls on a midfield that was frankly not supportive to either the offense or defense. In the first half midfielders Zach Mathers, Mark O'Ojong, and Jordan Schweitzer seemed to be sequestered to completely different zones, leaving a lot of space between lines for the Blues to operate in. Orange County capitalized with high pressure and a few stolen balls that very easily could have been goals. The midfield never seemed to find a rhythm or structure after Schweitzer's red in the second half.

Nouhou Tolo can be beat on the run

This didn't lead to too much pain in against the Blues, but there were a few times when Tolo was positioned too far central and OC midfielder Mats Bjurman was able to get a shoulder past him on an overhead ball.  With how much Tolo likes to get forward it's probably surprising his wing didn't see more action than it did from Orange County's offense.

It's good to have Andy Craven back

Craven was the standout Sounder of this match, hands down. He pulled Orange County's defense out of shape when he moved central, and he was able to slip behind the line on a few through balls. Almost all of Seattle's attacking opportunities came through Craven.