This was a topsy-turvy durvy-burvy game which included multiple red cards and missed open nets, the most dangerous lead in soccer, and a late winner. Early on it looked like Seattle Sounders FC 2, perhaps buoyed by their Open Cup win, would run Oklahoma City Energy FC off the pitch. The rout turned out not to be on, but in the end S2 were able to pull a 3-2 win out of what was somewhat of a rubber-infill fire.
S2 were excellent early, particularly in central midfield where the spacing and work rate of Ray Saari and Francisco Narbón, and the preternatural (for him) defensive effort of Zach Mathers saw S2 solidly in control of the game.
The dominance of S2 was codified in the 13’ after some good work by Brian Nana-Sinkam down the left side saw a deflected cross find its way to Mathers, who volleyed a shot off of the turf into the upper corner.
S2 continued the dominance and just a few minutes later a shot from 35 yards by Irvin Parra beat the keeper but not the right post. The rebound fell to Felix Chenkam, who, fooled by the spin on the ball, missed on open net with a shot off the crossbar.
By the 40’ things had truly turned fully in S2’s favor. In the 35’ OKC’s Miguel González was issued a red card after he made contact with Saari’s face. It wasn’t the most violent of conduct but the fact that he had a peek at Saari before flailing his arm back probably turned it from yellow to red.
Then in the 39’ S2 scored what seemed like the final dagger. Mathers was able to squeeze a kick from the spot past the goalie after Parra drew a foul in the box.
Unfortunately S2 came out in the second leaning a little much on their two-goal, one-man advantage and OKC put the screws to them. OKC gave notice early that they weren’t done when they sent a ball off of Tyler Miller’s left post. S2 responded by bunkering deep in their own half when they should have upped the pressure on OKC, and they payed for it.
Oppressive pressure and a series of shots from OKC between the 63’ and 70’ ended in a Hugh Alexander Dixon goal that brought the visitors within one.
Just before the OKC goal David Olsen missed an excellent one-on-one opportunity with the goalie, sending a little chip a yard wide of goal. He later missed an open net from the corner of the six-yard-box. S2 Looked like they would pay for their misses when Andy Craven buried a PK in the 86’.
But the beautiful game is about redemption and Olsen found it in the 90’. After some excellent build up from Nana-Sinkam and Lorenzo Ramos, Olsen received the ball in the box, put his misses out of his mind, and slid the the ball calmly by the OKC keeper. It was a truly stunning goal from build-up to finish.
Unfortunately, the game ended on another sour note when Saari was given a second yellow for a seemingly mild moment of dissent. This is not one S2 will be particularly proud of but it still got them three points and places them above the red line.
Tyler Miller; Denso Ulysse, Sam Rogers, Rodrigue Ele, Brian Nana-Sinkam; Ray Saari, Francisco Narbon, Zach Mathers, Charles Renken (Lorenzo Ramos 69'), Irvin Parra; Felix Chenkam (David Olsen 66')
Ray Saari (CDM)
Saari could be under ‘Notable Performers” every week, and I guess he pretty much is, but he was so good in this one. S2’s excellent spacing and dominance early were largely due to Saari. He is constantly surveying the field to determine not just where he should be, but where his teammates should be. There are not many moments where he isn’t instructing a teammate into a better position. Not to profess my love too strongly, but he might be a soccer genius and when he is done playing he will be an excellent coach.
His game isn’t purely cerebral, however, and he put up some impressive stats on Monday. He had 10(!) recoveries, 3 interceptions, 4 chances and 3 chances created which is an astonishing volume of contribution on both sides of the ball.
Brian Nana-Sinkam (LB)
This was easily BNS’s best game of the season. His best performances this year have come as a left back but this one was a level above what he has previously shown. He was great bombing up the left side. It was his good work and cross that lead directly to Mathers’ first goal. He showed for the first time the ability to beat his man to get a cross off and cut inside once and was able to free himself for a shot in the box. His long pass to Ramos that started off the build up to the winning goal was visionary.
BNS was also very solid on the defensive end. He added 9 recoveries and won almost all the second balls on his side of the field. He also seems to be coming to grips with positioning out on the left and if he can do the same on the right side there may yet be space for him at the back-end of the First Team roster.
Zach Mathers (AM)
Mathers’ first half was his best half of the season. His defensive effort and positioning were great in and when he does that his offensive prowess becomes an incredible asset. His most impressive stat was that he won 12 duels out of 16. That is a +8 total (for context Osvaldo Alonso averaged ~+5 in his best MLS season) and a great indication that he did a lot to help S2 hold possession.
His defensive work declined in the second half, and was probably part of the reason S2 struggled to slow down OKC in the last 45 minutes. He could have used a sub around the 65’ but it is tough to pull a guy who gave you 2 goals, 4 chances and 4 chances created. This game was a good reminder why the organization continues to rate him. If he can do the work he did in the first 45 minutes for a whole game he certainly has a place in MLS.
First Team call up power rankings
- Ray Saari (-)
- Irvin Parra (-)
- Sam Rogers(↑2)
- Rodrigue Ele (New)
- David Olsen(↓2)
- Ray Saari received both his 5th Yellow Card of the season and a Red Card. Both penalties come with a 1-game suspension. A newish rule makes it so that Yellow Cards in a game where a player receives two Yellow Cards do not count toward the season accumulation count. So Saari will serve a 1-game suspension for the Red Card and remain with a count of 4 Yellow Cards on the season.
- The referee in this game was Chipalo Street. He is local and has reffed S2 three times this season. These were not easy games and even though he gave out 4 Red Cards in those three games I think he got them all right, with the exception of Saari’s being perhaps a bit harsh. This is a guy, who, if he wants to, should be given a long look by MLS. He is not afraid to make the big calls and he has so far gotten them mostly right. He keeps control of often rough USL games as good as anyone, including MLS refs who have reffed S2 this year.