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S2 Player Recaps: The Contracts of 2017

A look at the players who were signed to Sounders 2 last season and what their futures hold.

Max Aquino

Time for the (admittedly belated) third and final installment of the S2 player recaps. Since it has been a while, here are the first and second parts. Okay, let’s get right into it and see how this part of #TheFuture fared last year and what you can expect from them this year.

Brian Nana-Sinkam (CB/LB/RB, 26 starts, 2,380 minutes, Age: 23)

After being drafted by the First Team, Brian Nana-Sinkam was unable to secure himself a contract but elected to stay with the organization and sign with Sounders 2. Early in the S2 season it looked like the man out of Stanford might be a complete bust as he struggled at centerback in preseason and put in some highly questionable performances at left back. However, as the season wore on he was able to grow into the left back position and also started to put in decent performances at centerback and right back. He also proved to be a threat on set pieces and scored an impressive 3 goals.

Nana-Sinkam still has a ways to go before he is ready for the MLS level. His size probably keeps him from being a centerback with the first team, but his emergence as a flex option who can play along the whole back line is enough to keep him around to see if he can continue to improve over the next few years.

Further Evaluations: vs OKC, vs RGV FC

Notable Stats: 82% tackle success rate and 2 assists

2018 Projection: He is no longer with the Sounders organization, but hasn’t yet been signed by another USL side.

Long term projection: He is probably a ways from MLS ready, but if he can stick it out in USL and improve his CB play I could see him making an MLS roster as a cheap flex-option in a few years.

Sam Rogers (CB, 25 starts, 2,250 minutes, Age: 18)

Rogers spent most of his time with the Academy playing as a defensive midfielder, but his move up to Sounders 2 included a positional move to CB. He hit the ground running, dazzling in early performances with better-than-expected defensive work and penetrating long passes from the back. His positioning improved pretty steadily throughout the season, he learned how to deal with crosses in the box, and became solid in the air when dealing with long balls. By the end of the season you couldn’t tell that CB was a reasonably new position for him.

He really shined when paired with a more aggressive CB partner, which allowed him to sit back and use his length and instincts to snuff out attacks. He did struggle when tasked with playing the position more aggressively and will need to learn to time his closing down of holdup players better. He often got it wrong and smaller, quicker players were able to turn him much to easily. He also needs to work on his short and medium passing which resulted in dangerous turnovers a bit to often for a CB. All that says he has an extremely high upside at CB and has shown the ability to learn quickly, so there is no doubt he will continue to improve.

Further Evaluations: vs SAFC

Notable Stats: 82% tackle success rate and 50 interceptions

2018 Projection: Will remain with S2 for the 2018 season, should start whenever available.

Long term projection: Has the potential to be a top MLS CB. Could make the first team as soon as 2019.

Irvin Parra (AM/FWD, 26 starts, 2,247 minutes, Age: 24)

Parra is the player I probably underrated the most consistently this season. His work, especially out on the wing, wasn’t as flashy as some other options, but created some of S2’s most dangerous chances. His ability and willingness to press from the attacking midfield was something no other S2 player was able to provide. That, combined with his ability to pick the right pass after the ball was turned over, saw him lead the team in assists with ten — 6 more than the next closest player.

After his departure to Orange County, S2’s ability to create team offense almost completely disappeared; Felix Chenkam in particular struggled due to the dearth of quality balls into the box. Letting Parra leave was probably best for the player, and in reality he probably wasn’t ever going to make the First Team, but it was a move that tanked S2’s chance at making the playoffs.

Further Evaluations: 2016 evaluation, vs T2, vs Los Dos

Notable Stats: 10 assists and 11 goals

2018 Projection: Probably remains with Orange County, but there is an outside chance LAFC could pick him up to fill out the end of their new roster.

Long term projection: I don’t think he will ever see significant time in MLS, but he will continue to terrorize USL defenses for years to come if he chooses.

Ray Saari (CDM/AM, 26 starts, 2,215 minutes, Age: 22)

Coming to S2 undrafted out of Tulsa, Saari was probably the biggest surprise of the year. He was the driving force in the S2 midfield, both disrupting opposition attacks and quickly transitioning S2 from defense to offense. He is absolutely relentless recovering the ball after a turnover, often ending matches with double digit recoveries. He is strong on the ball and gets his head up quickly. He also showed the ability to be creative further up the field and probably should have had 3 assists in the one game he played as an attacking midfielder.

To sum it all up, Saari has the grit, tactical awareness, smarts and skills to be a successful defensive midfielder at the MLS level. The question is whether he has the physical attributes to succeed. I personally think he is a bit faster and a lot stronger than he gets credit for, so I think he will have a solid career in MLS.

Further Evaluations: at Los Dos, at Tulsa, vs Monarchs, vs OKC, at RGV FC, vs Los Dos

Notable Stats: 1.3 key passes per 90 and 83.1% passing accuracy

2018 Projection: Will return to S2 and likely start whenever he is available for selection.

Long term projection: I’m not sure he will ever be a starter on a good MLS team (though he has exceeded expectations at every level he has played), but I think there is a decent chance he is the 3rd DM on an MLS team in 2-3 years.

Francisco Narbón (CDM, 22 starts, 1,957 minutes, Age: 22)

The Panamanian international had a solid year with S2 as a very defensive number 6. He spent most of his time rooted just in front of the backline, where he used his excellent anticipation to break up attacks. He is as solid defensively as one could ask for from a central midfielder in USL. He lead the team in both tackles and interceptions per 90.

Where he struggled throughout the season was with moving the ball from defense to attack. His passing was often predictable and overly safe, which at times stagnated the S2 offense. There is nothing wrong with having a primarily simple passer at CDM (see Osvaldo Alonso), but he needs to add a little more variety and improve his passing percentage for it to be viable at the next level.

Further Evaluations: at OCSC, at Colorado Springs

Notable Stats: 2.8 interceptions per 90 and 2.8 tackles per 90

2018 Projection: There are some rumors he is looking for a move abroad, but right now he is signed to S2. He may need to defend his starting spot against Alex Roldan this year.

Long term projection: His ceiling is probably around a backup number 6 in MLS, but it doesn’t look like that will be with the Sounders.

David Olsen (AM, 23 starts, 1,794 minutes, Age: 21)

Another S2 player adjusting to a new position, Olsen started the season slow but began to show some promise as an attacking midfielder through the middle of the season. He has a pretty good first touch and has a Dempsey-like swagger. Olsen showed himself to be a willing worker on defense and is a decent presser. The former striker’s biggest strength is his attacking instinct — he knows what to do when he gets in and around the box.

Olsen does have a lot of work to do though. His passing needs to be much tidier in the midfield and he needs to learn how to better work with the ball near the sideline. He is very much still a striker, and it remains to be seen whether he can fully adapt his mindset and positioning to be an attacking mid.

Further Evaluations: vs WFC2, vs Sacramento, vs San Antonio

Notable Stats: 4 goals and 72% passing percentage

2018 Projection: He will continue to learn how to play in the midfield with S2.

Long term projection: If he can put it all together as a midfielder, he has an outside chance of being a rotational player with the First Team.

Rodrigue Ele (CB, 16 starts, 1,339 minutes, Age: 19)

Ele is a strong, aggressive CB who plays much bigger than his size. He is excellent positionally and, despite his aggression, rarely puts a step wrong. He doesn’t get beat in one-on-one situations and rarely goes to ground. The Cameroonian is also an excellent passer. He moves in quickly and accurately over short and medium distances and showed the ability to bypass the opposition line with aggressive long balls.

His only real weakness is his size, and while he accommodates for it well, Ele will need to put on a bit more muscle to compete with some of the bigger forwards in MLS.

Further Evaluations: at San Antonio, at WFC2, at Phoenix

Notable Stats: 2.3 successful tackles per 90 and 1 assist

2018 Projection: He will continue to play with S2.

Long term projection: Ele has the potential to be a top MLS CB.

Denso Ulysse (RB, 14 starts, 1,290 minutes, Age: 19)

Ulysse is an extremely raw player, but he can be electrifying going forward. He is very quick, combines well and has a pretty dangerous cross. However, he really struggles defensively and didn’t show a ton of improvement over the course of the season. His speed makes him a decent one-on-one defender, but he is out of position more often than not and Ele spent a lot of time covering for him.

Ulysse does have the tools to be a good defender, but he needs to improve on most aspects of the mental side of defending.

Further Evaluations: vs Sacramento, vs Los Dos

Notable Stats: 2.7 interceptions per 90 and 25% successful cross rate

2018 Projection: He will continue to play with S2.

Long term projection: Ulysse has the athleticism and technical ability to be a starting RB in MLS in a few years.

Lorenzo Ramos (CDM/AM, 13 starts, 1,245 minutes, Age: 21)

This was Ramos’ third year playing with S2, but his first as a professional. He really struggled to impact games early in the season and often got in the way of his midfield partner, Ray Saari. Things changed quite a bit toward the end of the season, though. He seemed to have a breakthrough with his passing and really excelled in a couple of late season performances.

Unfortunately his passing is probably better suited to a defensive midfield spot, and he has yet to show the defensive acumen or strength to make his selection in that spot tenable.

Further Evaluations: at WFC2

Notable Stats: 87.4% passing percentage and 95.8% tackle success rate

2018 Projection: Ramos is no longer with the Sounders.

Long term projection: I don’t see Ramos ever making an MLS roster.

Felix Chenkam (FWD, 14 starts, 1,103 minutes, Age: 19)

Yet another member of the Rainbow FC envoy, Chenkam was far and away the best forward to play for S2 this year. He has elite strength, balance and tight control which allows him to fend off much bigger defenders when he holds up the ball. His hold-up play is actually pretty stunning and he rarely, if ever, loses the ball when he receives it with his back to goal. He has excellent passing vision which allows him to bring the rest of the attack quickly into play. On top of all that, he makes intelligent runs in the box and can finish well with both feet.

Further Evaluations: at Los Dos, vs RGV FC, at Colorado Springs

Notable Stats: 5 goals and 10 key passes

2018 Projection: He will continue to play with S2.

Long term projection: I could see Chenkam making an impact in MLS in the next two years. He has the potential to be a starting striker in MLS.

Charles Bimbe-Renken (AM, 10 starts, 976 minutes, Age: 24)

Bimbe-Renken joined halfway through the season but was never able to make a big impact. There were still occasional glimpses of the athleticism and one-on-one ability that made him a USYNT player, but nothing to suggest he is close to putting it all together in an effective way on the field.

Further Evaluations: none

Notable Stats: 25.8 passes per 90 and 1 goal

2018 Projection: He will likely land with another USL team.

Long term projection: I don’t see him making it back to MLS.

Riley Grant (CB/LB, 10 starts, 949 minutes, Age: 23)

Grant struggled with the speed of the game at the USL level. His defending and passing weren’t good enough at CB. He did put in a few solid performances at LB, but they ultimately weren’t enough and he was cut halfway through the season.

Further Evaluations: none

Notable Stats: none

2018 Projection: He is no longer with the Sounders organization, and there is not yet any news of him playing elsewhere.

Long term projection: Grant could make a decent USL LB at some point, but I don’t see him making it in MLS.

Shandon Hopeau (AM, 10 starts, 766 minutes, Age: 19)

This was Hopeau’s first year as a professional and he really struggled to adapt his game to the level of play in the USL. With the Academy he was direct and aggressive, but he was too physically outmatched and not a good enough dribbler for this style of play to work against professionals.

That said, he still holds a lot of promise. He has an excellent shot, a good first touch and is a decent passer, but he will need to learn to be more of a facilitator and improve his movement off the ball.

Further Evaluations: vs T2, vs San Antonio

Notable Stats: 77.6% passing accuracy and 1.2 shots per 90

2018 Projection: He was signed to play another year with S2.

Long term projection: It all depends on whether Hopeau is able to adjust his playing style. If he is able to adjust, he could be a decent depth piece in midfield for the Sounders in several years.

Steve Whyte (LB, 7 starts, 612 minutes, Age: 21)

Whyte was brought in late in the season to shore up the LB position. He did a solid job and was a very good USL defensive LB. Unfortunately he doesn’t bring enough to the attack and probably tops out as a USL-level LB.

Further Evaluations: none

Notable Stats: none

2018 Projection: Whyte returned to Australia after the season.

Long term projection: As noted above, he is unlikely to rise above a USL-level LB.

Guy Serge Edoa (AM, 2 starts, 428 minutes, Age: 20)

Edoa also joined late in the season and showed flashes of quality, but ultimately failed to make a meaningful impact. The Cameroonian was fast and powerful, and had a pretty accurate cross, but that was about it. His passing left a lot to be desired and ultimately his athleticism didn’t seem to be enough to atone for his technical deficiencies.

Further Evaluations: none

Notable Stats: 37.5% cross success rate

2018 Projection: He is no longer with the organization.

Long term projection: I didn’t see enough of him to make a meaningful evaluation.

Azriel Gonzalez (AM, 3 starts, 339 minutes, Age: 16)

Gonzalez had a rough go of it in his first professional season. In his first appearance he got a red card, and just after signing his first pro contract he seriously injured his ankle. Given these circumstances, he didn’t get many minutes and was not super impressive in the minutes he did receive. That said, 339 minutes is not even close to enough time to evaluate a 16-year-old, especially one who is learning a new position. The Sounders organization have seen more of him and think highly of him, so I am inclined to trust their evaluation on this player.

Further Evaluations: none

Notable Stats: 65.9% passing accuracy and 11.7 passes per 90

2018 Projection: He will return to S2.

Long term projection: I haven’t seen enough of him to make a meaningful evaluation.

Javorn Stevens (FWD, 1 start, 223 minutes, Age: 19)

The Antiguan youth international struggled to adjust to the USL.

Further Evaluations: none

Notable Stats: none

2018 Projection: He is no longer with the organization.

Long term projection: I didn’t see enough of him to make a meaningful evaluation.

Cody Lang (GK, 0 starts, 30 minutes, Age: 24)

Lang looked competent in his one appearance.

Further Evaluations: none

Notable Stats: none

2018 Projection: Lang is not currently signed to a contract but he has been training with the Sounders during preseason, so we may see more of him.

Long term projection: I haven’t seen enough of him to make a meaningful evaluation.

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