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Saari, Chenkam prove themselves Mudders in Sacramento

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Neither team covered themselves in glory, but a few S2 players stuck out from the mire.

Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

When playing in or watching the USL one occasionally runs into a match that isn’t quite soccer. Seattle Sounders FC 2 ran in to such a match at the Sacramento Republic FC over the weekend. After a couple of inches of rain in the previous days, the field was on the edge of being safe enough for professional soccer. Players from both sides struggled to keep their footing, with several slips nearly causing injury, and large patches of mud and standing water were visible all over the field. To make things worse, the contest was overseen by a referee who was simply not good enough on the night. Sacramento earned an early red card but ended the match up a man after Rodrigue Ele received a second yellow for a foul he didn’t commit and Denso Ulysse a straight red for a somewhat pedestrian one-footed tackle from behind. The Republic also were awarded a late penalty that was not looked to have possibly occurred outside the box. S2 were unable to overcome the deleterious conditions and lost their third match in a row 1-0.

It is a bit difficult to rate players from such a disastrous game, no one was spectacular, but a few players had some good moments.

Notable Performers

Felix Chenkam (FWD)

Chenkam had a pretty solid game at forward, bringing just about everything you could ask of a No. 9 besides a goal. He provided S2 excellent hold-up play all night, battling well against Sacramento captain Jeremy Hall despite the ref generally being unwilling to call fouls committed on Chenkam. If you want to see an example of Chenkam’s good hold-up check out a sequence in the 12th minute where he twice held the ball up to start and continue an attack that resulted in a dangerous shot from Ulysse. Chenkam was also very active running in behind the Sacramento defense, but was often left with little support once he got on the ball. You can see good runs in behind in 13’, 35’, 43’ and 56’ and those are just the runs where his teammates found him. The forward doesn’t waste his runs or hold-ups either. He completed 100% of his passes on the night and when left with no good passing options usually won a set piece or throw in.

Chenkam’s best moment of the match, and perhaps S2’s best individual move of the season, came in the 20’ on the play that ended with a Sacramento red card. With his back to goal, Chenkam applied a deft little touch to an incoming pass from Ele that sent the ball around the defender on his back into space. He then swam around the other side of the defender and turned on the burners to beat two Sacramento players who had less ground to cover to the ball. He would have been in one on one with the keeper if he wasn’t brought down by a tactical foul from the last defender.

There are still a few things Chenkam needed to do a bit better in this match, though. His header on a 54’ cross wasn’t great, and though he forced the keeper into a save, he could have done much better. He also needs to get a bit better at recognizing when there are midfielders available to help him with the press. He provided good pressure all night but also wasted a lot of energy by pressing in futile situations where no help was coming to make the press worthwhile.

Ray Saari (CDM)

For the second game in a row Saari was excellent. He started the game a bit further forward than he generally played last year, with him and Francisco Narbon playing a bit less of a double pivot and more of a well defined No. 8 and 6. This freed Saari to get forward a bit more and he was the most dangerous creator for S2 throughout the many stages of the turbulent match. Saari really showed off his passing range and ability against Sacramento. He was the only player on either team who was able to consistently move the ball through the midfield into the attack. He completed 89% of his passes and created two of S2’s four chances. He was also strong on the dribble and made good attacking runs off the ball, both of which can be seen in a sequence in the 8th minute. He also threw in three tackles and two interceptions on the night.

His most impressive skill against Sacramento was his many accurate balls in behind. He was able to get Nick Hinds, Shandon Hopeau and Chenkam into open space behind the defense several times. His best balls over the top can be seen at 3’, 36’ and 90+3’. The last one was a well-weighted ball that Hinds should have finished to tie the game.

Jake Morris (LB)

Morris didn’t have a spectacular substitute appearance, his first involvement was getting megged and then conceding the penalty that resulted in the game’s only goal, but there was a lot to like about his first minutes at left back this year. He was powerful getting forward and showed himself to be a solid dribbler and passer. His best moments going forward came at 72’, 79’, 83’ and 86’. He reminds me a lot of an 18-year-old Nouhou. He is a bit wild, possibly out of control on occasion, but he looks to be a force to be reckoned with offensively and defensively. His best defensive moment came in the 89’ minute when he absolutely stood up a Sacramento player trying to get by him one on one.

I’ll admit this probably isn’t the best game to judge Morris by, but this appearance has me excited to see him get an extended run out at LB.

First Team call up power rankings

  1. Ray Saari
  2. Sam Rogers
  3. Felix Chenkam (up 1)
  4. Nick Hinds (up 1)
  5. Rodrigue Ele (down 2)