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Sounders 2 lose 6 goal struggle against Swope Park Rangers

Swope Park’s Belmar and Barry were too much for an S2 side that struggled to adapt to a new formation.

Ibrahim Usman wins ball from Camilo Benitez
Henry Hauck/Swope Park Rangers

Away from the baseball field they call home, things did not go as well for Seattle Sounders FC 2 as they did last week. They came up against a Swope Park Rangers side with two excellent forwards in Hadji Barry and Kharlton Belmar and a midfield that completed close to 90% of their passes in week one. Coach John Hutchinson broke out a new formation (4-1-4-1 with Dylan Teves as the lone defensive midfielder) to combat the Swope Park attack and accommodate for S2’s lack of healthy DMs. Unfortunately, his plan didn’t work because Teves played too far to the left and Alex Roldan didn’t provide any defensive help on the right side. The combination of Roldan’s poor positioning and Denso Ulysse having his worst game with S2 lead to Barry and Belmar terrorizing S2’s right side.

S2 were under it from the start, with S2’s disjointed midfield unable to string together passes, Swope Park had all of the attacking play in the first 20’. Due to the good defensive work of the centerback pair of Rodrigue Ele and Tony Alfaro S2 were able to weather the early storm and get the opening goal. In the 19’ Ele played an excellent long through ball to Estrada which he was able to deflect past Rangers goalie Darrin MacLeod and then slide into an open net.

The lead was short lived though. In the 21’ Barry was able to find Belmar in the box. Belmar was able to get a little bit of separation from Ulysse with some nice footwork and flash a shot across the face of goal from a tight angle. Calle Brown looked to have the shot covered but it took an slight deflection off Alfaro as he tried to block the shot and snuck under Browns outstretched arm. It was a bit lucky but Swope Park probably deserved it given the run of play.

S2 were disorganized defending set pieces all night and it reared its head on Swope Park’s second goal. Felipe Hernandez put in the 35’ set piece and Ibrahim Usman appeared to lose his mark who cleverly drifted away from goal. The ball floated just over Ele’s head and Rodrigo Savario was able to guide a clever looping header into the top corner to make it 2-1. S2 remained under immense pressure for the remainder of the half but were able to keep the score close with some good last ditch defending.

The second half started the same as the first with Swope Park having the dangerous chances. They quickly doubled their lead in the 52’ minute when Cameron Martin turned the ball over to Colton Storm in S2’s defensive half. Storm quickly slid past Roldan and fought off Roldan’s poor attempt to bring him down from behind. This gave Storm a free run into the box and after Ele missed a last ditch tackle the Swope park defender cooly struck the ball past Brown to make it 3-1.

After the third goal Hutchinson brought on Shandon Hopeau for Martin and slid Roldan next to Teves to put S2 in their more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. Handwalla Bwana also started to work himself into the game and it bore fruit quickly. In the 56’ Bwana received the ball from Roldan near half. He was able to dribble past a few Swope Park players and slide a clever through ball into a streaking Estrada. Estrada drove into the box and slickly lifted the ball over an onrushing MacLeod to cut the lead to one.

S2 kept up the pressure but Swope Park were able to add another goal against the run of play. After a poor foul from Ulysse, Swope Park played a quick free kick that found S2 on their heels. The kick lead Belmar streaking down the right. Ele rushed out and missed on an ill advised tackle out wide. From there Belmar was simply too good and too fast. He was in the box before anyone could slide over to cover and he stuck an excellent curling effort past both Alfaro and Brown to return the Swope Park lead to two.

After the sixth goal S2 mostly controlled the game and came close to scoring a few times. Most notably on a freekick which Bwana won and took, but ultimately his effort curled a little too close to MacLeod who saved it down to his left. The last 35 minutes were promising from S2 but ultimately they couldn’t overcome their dismal opening 55.

Lineup: Calle Brown; Denso Ulysse (Khai Brisco 63’), Rodrigue Ele, Tony Alfaro, Ibrahim Usman; Dylan Teves, Cameron Martin (Shandon Hopeau 53’); Alex Roldan, Handwalla Bwana, Dylan Teves, Gabe Threadgold (Nick Hinds 72’); David Estrada.

Notable Performances

No one had a great game against Swope Park, I’m not sure anyone even had a good game. If I were doing this Realio style I wouldn’t give anyone an above USL average rating, but a few players had some good moments.

David Estrada (FWD)

Estrada struggled to connect with teammates throughout the game and was a bit of a black hole when the ball was played into him with his back to goal, but as a veteran he was able to recognize where he was struggling and where he could bring value to the game. He was able to provide good, dangerous pressure to a Swope Park Rangers backline that struggled to play out of the back, and was the main reason their passing and possession numbers weren’t even more dominant in the first half. His best pressing came in the 16’, 38’ and 54’ minutes and he could have been even more effective if Bwana had done a little better recognizing when the press was on.

Estrada also realized, after unsuccessfully trying to hold the ball up for the first 20’, that the way he was going to offensively impact the game was by making runs in behind. He was caught offsides 3 or 4 times but his runs gave Bwana room to operate in between the midfield and defensive lines. Obviously, he also timed some of his runs correctly which resulted in his two goals. Estrada will need to improve his passing if he wants to start over Chenkam consistently but his veteran savvy was invaluable in this game.

Handwalla Bwana (CAM)

The UW alum also struggled with his passing in the first half. He struggled defensively as well and contributed to S2’s extremely porous midfield. He did show one highly impressive skill throughout the game though. His ability to receive the ball at midfield, turn a defender and eat up literal miles of space on the dribble is elite. Swope Park were unable to stop him from doing it without fouling him, which is part of why he drew 5 fouls in the game. You can see examples of Bwana’s turn and dribble in the 21’, 25’, 33’, 43’, 53’, 56’ and 72’. And those are just the most impressive ones.

After the half, more specifically after S2 moved into a 4-2-3-1, Bwana’s defense and passing both improved, though he still didn’t provided Estrada enough help pressing. Obviously, Bwana’s pass on the 2nd Estrada goal was very good but he also placed splendid passes in the 76’, 79’ and 87’. If Bwana can quicken his decision making and improve his short passing a little bit he is going to tear up the USL this season.

Rodrigue Ele (CB)

Ele probably had the most mixed game of any of the three notable performers but his one on one defending is the only reason S2 were even in the game going into half. The Cameroonian was the only player on S2 who could defend Barry or Belmar one on one. He single handedly stopped goals in the 8’, 11’, 22’ and 31’. That said, this was a game where Ele’s usually well timed aggression got the better of him. He needed to recognize that Swope Park were running right through the S2 midfield and that Ulysse was having a very bad game on the right side. It was a game that called for him to be a bit more cautious but he found himself caught to far upfield multiple times in the first half. A more experienced defender probably recognizes the game state and stays at home more. Ele was way too aggressive on the last Swope Park goal and left the defense exposed when he went way out on the wing and missed a wild tackle on Belmar.

Ele also got better when the team switched to the 4-2-3-1 and had a positionally solid but quiet final 30 minutes. All in all Ele probably stopped 3 goals but was also directly responsible for one and had a bad turnover in the run up to another. Truly a mixed bag. This is a game tape the coaches should have Ele watch a lot of and hopefully he can learn when he needs to tamp down his aggression a bit.

First Team call up power rankings

This is a list of S2 players who I think are closest to earning a First Team contract. This early in the new season it is going to be a little biased towards players who were with S2 last year because I haven’t seen much of the new players. It may change a lot in the opening two months as new players impress or players from last year plateau or regress.

  1. Ray Saari
  2. Sam Rogers
  3. Felix Chenkam
  4. Rodrigue Ele
  5. David Olsen

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