The roster Seattle Sounders FC 2 brought to Southern California was unexpectedly limited due to the weekend’s USSDA playoffs. Five of S2’s best players, Denso Ulysse, Rodrigue Ele, Shandon Hopeau, Sam Rogers and Felix Chenkam, spent the weekend playing for the organization’s U18 Academy team. The team was also without Ray Saari due to a Red Card suspension. S2 had to call up two previously off-the-radar U16 players, Christian Koontz and Camilo Santiago, and bring a recovering, unlikely to play, Seyi Adekoya to have even a semblance of a bench. Add to that both Zach Mathers and Lorenzo Ramos playing out of position and the first half went about how one would expect, even against a struggling Orange County Soccer Club.
Things got off to a dubious start for S2 when Brian Nana-Sinkam was called for a penalty in the 10’. From what can be seen of the play it absolutely looks like it was Nana-Sinkam who was fouled, but to be fair to the ref the camera was late arriving and it is possible Nana-Sinkam committed a foul out of view. Tyler Miller was unable to bolster his PK mythos; Roy Meeus was able to send Miller the wrong way and pass it into the net.
Just minutes later Orange County got another goal off of a questionable foul call. In the 17’ Riley Grant was called for a foul near the top of the box, though on replay it doesn’t look like Grant actually made contact with the OCSC player. Off of the resulting free kick Koontz was fooled by a slight deflection and ended up directing the ball into his own net.
Orange County looked to have put the game away with their first goal from open play in the 24’. A simple through ball split Ramos and Nana-Sinkam and was finished off well by Carlos Alvarez whose first touch strike beat Miller low. Miraculously, S2 managed to limp into halftime 3-0.
While they were unlucky on the first two goals, 3-0 is probably a fair score on the balance. Orange County absolutely ran through Seattle’s midfield, despite the best efforts of Francisco Narbón. Orange County also wisely attacked Ramos incessantly after diagnosing early he wasn’t exactly comfortable at RB. S2 failed to provide him support and were out thought on the field.
Luckily, what the players were unable to solve on the field Ezra Hendrickson was able to at halftime. Mathers sat deeper, even further back than Narbón, and ceded creative responsibility to Charles Renken and Irvin Parra. Koontz pinched in more, which shifted the backline right and provided Ramos with more assistance. David Olsen stayed closer to Parra. It all worked and Hendrickson deserves a lot of credit.
The changes paid off immediately and S2 won a corner in the 47’ minute. Mathers served in a quality ball from the corner which Nana-Sinkam was able to rise up and head down into the ground. The ball bounced beyond the reach of Charlie Lyon and into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
Orange County almost hit back immediately as they broke out off of a S2 corner. OCSC looked to have a 2 on 1 advantage but Narbón made an other worldly recovery run and tackle that thwarted the Orange County attack. He then followed it up with a fantastic block.
And with that the comeback was well and truly on.
In the 69’ minute something happened in the penalty box that earned S2 their own penalty. It is not really clear what happened but it ended with Parra on the ground clutching his knee. Mathers stepped up, and as he does, buried the penalty in the 72’ to halve Seattle’s deficit.
Unfortunately, the process of clawing back left S2 a little short on energy. In the 80’, after S2 allowed Orange County to pass the ball around in the box for an extended period, Alvarez was able to get a clear shot on goal to add his second and restore the OCSC lead to two.
In the 87’ Charles Renken was able to shrink the lead to one again with a spectacular effort from the top of the box.
In the end the fourth OCSC goal was too much for S2 to overcome and the game ended 4-3. It is a disappointing loss but S2 did well to show some fight and spare themselves an embarrassing scoreline.
Tyler Miller; Lorenzo Ramos, Brian Nana-Sinkam, Riley Grant, Christian Koontz; Francisco Narbon, Zach Mathers, David Olsen, Charles Renken, Milo Barton (Camilo Santiago 75'); Irvin Parra
Francisco Narbón (CDM)
Narbón was asked to do a lot in the first half, and judging by the score he was asked to do too much. That said, he was the main reason they managed to escape the first half down only three. He was everywhere and did his best to slow Orange County’s movement through the middle of the field, but in the end it was just too much ground for him to cover.
His task got easier in the second half because Mathers put in a much more positionally disciplined shift than the first. Narbón still did a lot of the work but having another body there allowed him to narrow the areas he had to cover. His recovery run and block early in the second half were spectacular and set the tone for the whole team’s second half performance. He ended the game leading S2 in passes and passes completed. He also added 6 recoveries, 3 tackles and 2 interceptions. That isn’t his most flashy game stats wise but it can’t be overstated how much work he put in.
Irvin Parra (FWD)
This was a complete performance from Parra. He has spent much of this season doing the dirty bang around work up top, but in this one he also reminded that he has some real creativity to him.
His hold up play was excellent and he did very well to draw 5 fouls which helped Seattle slow down a game in which they threatened to be overrun. Where he really shined was in the second half. With Saari out and Mathers being instructed to sit deep all of S2’s attack rested on the performance of Parra in the final 45’. Parra ended the match with 3 chances and 3 of S2’s 4 chances created. He was also the one who drew the penalty that got S2 within one goal.
Christian Koontz (LB)
Koontz is new on the S2 scene, having just been added to the S2 eligible Academy player list this week. Seeing his name, as a somewhat unknown U16 player, in the starting lineup was worrying but Koontz showed well and looked perfectly competent on a field full of professionals.
He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he held down the left side very well and was smart enough to pinch in in the second half to assist a defense that was being overloaded on the right. He ended the game with a respectable 2 tackles, 3 clearances and 1 interception. Koontz announced himself as a player to keep an eye on.
First Team call up power rankings
- Ray Saari (-)
- Irvin Parra (-)
- Sam Rogers(-)
- Rodrigue Ele (-)
- Denso Ulysse (New)*
*Despite not playing, Ulysse moved up a spot because Olsen has fallen out of the top 5. This doesn’t indicate that Olsen has become a bad player but rather that he has hit a bit of a wall and his level has dropped in the last month.