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Storylines and self-evaluation after S2’s double-game week

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A loss to a better team, and a gritty, thrilling win in heavy rain.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Saturday night Seattle Sounders 2 notched their second win of the season. They went up 1-0 in the first minute, fell behind after giving up two cheap goals, and then gutted out a 3-2 victory with 16-year-old Azriel Gonzalez netting the winner over Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.

It was a solid follow-up to the midweek, where they were dominated by Real Monarch SLC in a 3-1 loss. That match was mostly youngsters, and between the two games nearly two dozen players took the field for S2. Both matches involved heavy rains, dampening the crowd and causing a puddle in the Saturday night match.

This was also the week with the transition between YouTube and ESPN+.

Rio Grande Valley FC Toros Focus

Nico Corti is one of only six NCAA keepers to shut out the field while winning the NCAA tournament. This note didn’t make the broadcast because dude was rested for the first time this season.

H-E-B Park, home of the Toros, is hosting CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying.

Toros only have three teenagers eligible for the squad at this time. None have played a minute yet this season. Their signing philosophy is a mix of seasoned USL/NASL vets, college draftees and fringe internationals from around the world (playing for places like Armenia, Argentina and Mexico). Their biggest development success was taking their head coach and getting him to be the First Team coach for the Houston Dynamo.

Their defensive midfielders tend to roam a lot; this was supposed to enable David Olsen, Ray Saari and Fransisco Narbon space to influence from the middle. That did not happen. Seattle’s success came from the wings, not in the middle.

S2 Coach John Hutchinson (Hutch) wants to see both attacking mids (Nick Hinds and Shandon Hopeau) be more aggressive in their off-ball movement and make strong diagonals into the back post when the other gets the ball in dangerous areas. I talked with Steve Zakuani a bit about this and that conversation didn’t make the broadcast. The key takeaway was that Steve needed to learn to run off the ball to take his speed from a strong asset to a world class one. It was his primary development in his second year and it was a combination of coaching (Sigi), older players (like Ljungberg) and personal drive that made it happen.

Assistant coach Wade Webber talked about Hinds as a left back, where he played in the Academy and in college. There was some good fortune that he played there, but showed his lack of recent experience. His speed is an asset in defense, similar to how Joevin Jones defended.

I have stuff I want to say about recent signing Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, but I’ll save that for when he first plays. Same goes for Academy players Sakari Carter and Jacob Castro.

Quick thoughts on the players

Calle Brown: Way late on the ball, and his error nearly cost them the game.

Denso Ulysse: Earlier in the year there were errors significant enough Ulysse might have lost his job. Last night he was all that you want from a right back and more.

Rodrigue Ele: Great moving the ball in the attack, but has trouble guarding his zone when his CB partner is away.

Sam Rogers: He’s ready for the next challenge.

Ibrahim Usman: Solid work but had trouble getting the killer pass into the area.

Azriel Gonzalez on at 57’ for Usman, Hinds switched to LB: Way to go kid! Excellent effort collecting the rebound to score.

Ray Saari (Captain): Vibrant, authoritative, didn’t give any quarter despite being undersized — he’s the USL Alonso.

Francisco Narbon: Strong in distribution and leadership, adaptable to challenges.

Shandon Hopeau: Strong runs and good entry passes. Maybe his best performance.

David Olsen: Stronger start than typical, but could have controlled the game by dropping back into space a bit.

David Estrada on at 67’ for Olsen: Excellent injection of energy just when it was needed.

Nick Hinds: Strong performance but needs to finish his shots. Needs more left back reps.

Felix Chenkam: Probably his best game, not just because of the goals, but because of the way he held the ball up, distributed and defended. Should have had a goal.

Dylan Teves on at 88’ for Chenkam: Teves joins Estrada as the only player to play in every S2 game. He’s third on the team in minutes and probably belongs under contract. Good communication as the team turned into a wide 4-3-2-1.

Real Monarch SLC Focus

A big theme on this one is the UW connection. Craig Waibel, the RSL GM, is a former UW player and assistant coach, so when the Monarchs look to add solid D2 veterans to help them win at the USL level they wind up with guys like Michael Gallagher (former Sounders Academy), Josh Heard and James Moberg. All had solid games for the level and though they don’t look like MLS players they can help teach a culture of winning.

Monarchs also have serious elder talents to push that winning culture. Sebastian Velasquez and Chandler Hoffman didn’t start, but in their sub appearances they helped crush the very young S2 squad.

That S2 team averaged just under 21 years of age, but that average actually understates how young this lineup was. Estrada (30) and Bryan Meredith (28) both started. There were six teens in the starting lineup only one of them is done with high school (Jake Morris). Ray Serrano and Azriel Gonzalez started on the wings. Cameron Martin and Teves started at defensive mid. Blake Malone started at centerback. The fact that it took the Monarchs so long to put away a team that never trains together and featuring that much youth is a positive.

Malone is the best of the CB group in the Academy right now. Sakari Carter, recently eligible for S2 games, is the other notable CB. Neither will see much time because Rogers and Ele are both potential MLS talents.

No quick player thoughts on this one. The time pressures on a double-game week meant that I didn’t get to it in time for the thoughts to be quick.

Catchphrases I actually pulled off

“When I was 16 I was working in Dairy Queen.”