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Sounders 2 players show marked improvement against RGV FC

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Chenkam scored a brace while Ulysse and Hopeau displayed new levels of tactical understanding at Cheney

Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

Hallelujah!! Watching Seattle Sounders FC 2 play every week can be frustrating (though not as frustrating as watching the First Team at the moment, amirite) but it can also be unbelievably glorious. And it was glorious on Saturday night. Not only did S2 beat Rio Grande Valley FC 3-2 but the embers of progress and potential burned white hot. All but a few S2 players had good to great games, some had seeming leaps in their tactical acumen and a couple just plain showed how good they can be.

Highlights

Notable Performers

Felix Chenkam (FWD)

The 19-year-old striker was fantastic on Saturday night. I believe his hold-up ability is already MLS ready and his passing with a defender on his back may be an above-average MLS skill. Chenkam provided his usual splendid hold-up play all night that helped S2 relieve moments of pressure and start attacks. The best examples of him starting an attack with a pass out of hold up were in the 13’ and 23’, both of which released David Olsen into the final third at full speed.

Now the one thing that has been missing from Chenkam’s game so far this season has been goals from open play. A lot of that has been due to lack of service but he has also missed a couple chances he probably should have put away. He was able to rectify that with a brace against RGV FC. He didn’t have much to do on the first one. He was just in the correct place when Ray Saari sent in a nice little cross from the top of the box and was able to head it back across goal into the net. Chenkam had a little more to do on the second though. As he does throughout most games with S2 he made a well-timed bursting run into the box but this time it was actually rewarded. Ele spotted him and played a nice through ball to Chenkam. With the goalie rushing towards him Chenkam played a clever little chip past the goalie from a tight angle to tie the game.

If S2 can keep rewarding Chenkam’s runs and Chenkam can continue to finish them at a decent rate he is going to score a lot of goals this year.

Shandon Hopeau (AM)

Hopeau had what was easily his best game with S2. Since moving up from the Academy to the USL side, Hopeau has struggled to figure out how he needs to play in order to have success against the older and better players in the professional league. He took a big step toward figuring that out on Saturday. Instead of waiting for the ball to come to him and then try to dribble himself into dangerous positions, Hopeau instead used off-the-ball movement, quick interplay and runs in behind to put himself in good positions. His early runs into space were impressive and something S2 has desperately needed. His first came in the lead up to the first goal 1’ and he just continued from there, opening the game up with his movement in 4’, 9’, 11’, 72’, 75’ and 87’. He also showed that he has good vision and service when he is able to get into dangerous positions, contributing a team high three chances created. I particularly liked the vision and creativity Hopeau showed on an attempted curling through ball to Chenkam in the 25’ which just missed paying off and a nice backheel in the box in the 75’. Best of all, with the added variety to his game, Hopeau was able to show that he can still create space for himself on the dribble as long as that isn’t all he is trying to do.

The attacking midfielder also had a much improved defensive outing. He was active and effective both on the press and back helping Ulysse defend the right side.

I have been somewhat down on Hopeau as of late but if he can keep improving in this direction I may need to re-evaluate.

Denso Ulysse (RB)

A few games ago, against Swope Park, things looked to be coming apart for the young right back. Ulysse was so bad he was pulled in the second half of that game and likely would have been benched for the next game were it not for an injury to Academy player Khai Brisco. To his credit, Ulysse seized the momentary reprieve and has solidified his spot as S2’s starting right back. He has been steadily improving since that bad night in Kansas, a maybe unlucky, but still foolish red card in Sacramento aside, and really put it all together on Saturday.

Ulysse was excellent defensively against RGV FC, using his speed not to get himself out of trouble but to keep himself from getting in trouble and to fix mistakes made by his teammates. His stats were solid, with 2 tackles, 5 interceptions and 6 recoveries and his positioning was fantastic all night. He was also the last line of defense for S2 several times and performed well under that pressure. In the 12’, with S2’s CB’s caught out a bit, his awareness and good positioning allowed him to clear a cross into the box that was headed for a wide open RGV FC player in the 6-yard box. In the 29’ he again showed good awareness and used his speed to intercept the start of a counter that would have left S2 exposed and stopped two dangerous crossing opportunities with excellent tackles in the box in the 71’ and 90+3’.

In addition to the solid defense Ulysse was good offensively and combined well with Hopeau. Their work down the right side was what drove the whole S2 offense. It was also Ulysse’s driving run forward and decent shot that the keeper spilled that Azriel Gonzalez slammed home for the winning goal in the 82’.

Enough cannot be said about how well Ulysse seems to have dealt with his bad night in Kansas and how quickly he has learned from it. It bodes very well for his future and he has quickly become one to keep your eye on again.

First Team call up power rankings

  1. Ray Saari
  2. Felix Chenkam (up 1)
  3. Sam Rogers (down 1)
  4. Rodrigue Ele (up 1)
  5. Francisco Narbon (NEW)