Tonight Seattle Sounders FC 2 faced off against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in eastern Colorado. The field they were asked to play on was in horrible condition and the ball was visibly jumping off the grass/bare dirt as much as a foot. This made passing difficult and led to an ugly start-and-stop match. It was apparent from the beginning that the Switchbacks knew better how to play on the mess of a pitch. They played about as Route 1 as is possible and it served them well, especially in the first half.
The first danger of the game came in the 3’ when S2 allowed a Switchbacks corner to bounce multiple times in the box, continuing their trend of poor set piece defending. The ball was there to be put into the back of the net but S2 were able to scramble it away.
After that initial corner the ball remained almost exclusively in the middle of the field for an extended period, with both side struggling to string passes together. The first serious threat to either goal came in the 26’ when the Switchbacks’ Jordan Burt received the ball 25 yards from goal. He was given too much time and was able to set up a shot which was well struck and headed for the top corner. Only the long frame of Calle Brown kept the score even as he dove excellently to his left to deny the Switchbacks.
S2 continued to struggle to keep the ball and the next chance again fell to the Switchbacks when AJ Ajeakwa found himself free in the box. He was found with a pass and after settling the ball, put a curling effort just past the post. After the Ajeakwa chance S2 finally started to get into the game. They had most of the possession in the last 10 minutes of the first half but were unable to do anything threatening in the final third. The last chance of the half again fell to Ajeakwa in the 42’. The speedy forward got in behind and looked in on goal. Rodrigue Ele was able to get back just enough to rush Ajeakwa’s shot slightly and he hit it directly at Brown.
In the second half S2 continued the possession play they had found near the end of the first. In the 49’ it paid off with their first real chance of the game. Felix Chenkam recieved the ball in the box and was able to hold off his defender for long enough for David Olsen to get down field. Chenkam than found him near the top of the box. Olsen did well to clear the ball out of his feet and get off what looked a promising shot. Unfortunately a Switchbacks defender had just enough time to shift over and block it.
After the Olsen shot the game fell back into its natural start and stop rhythm with neither team able to get deep into their attack.
Things got a bit more ugly when Ray Saari earned his second yellow for a late tackle in the midfield. It was dumb of Saari, especially considering his first yellow was for kicking a ball away in anger. Luckily, the Switchbacks bailed Saari and S2 out a bit when Luke Vercollone also received a second yellow just 4 minutes later to make the match a 10v10 affair.
S2 began to dominate possession again and Olsen came close to scoring in the 68’ and 72’. The first came after he settled a clearance with his chest and then hit a half volley from 25 yards out that went just inches wide of the left post. The second came from S2’s best attacking move of the night. Chenkam held up the ball near the half and found Olsen running down the field. Olsen found Hinds streaking down the sideline who ran towards the byline and sent a cutback pass Olsen’s way. Olsen hit it with his first touch but didn’t quite get enough on it and the Switchbacks’ goalie had just enough reach to smother the ball as it headed for the bottom corner.
After that chance it seems S2 decided they were going to try and win the game as they moved Hinds up top (or Hinds decided himself to move up there, it is not clear which) next to Chenkam. It was fairly effective and Hinds nearly got in behind many times. His closest chance came in the 73’ when he found himself in one on one with the goalie, but he was unable to provide the finish he needed and sent it sailing 5 yards over the bar.
Now with the numbers advantage in midfield the Switchbacks got their first prolonged spell of possession of the second half. In the 79’ minute only another spectacular save from Brown preserved the draw. Ajeakwa finally got the timing of his run in behind perfect and the Switchbacks found him. He was in one on one with Brown and attempted to volley the ball into the top corner. Brown showed excellent reactions as he threw his hands up to his left and got just enough on the ball to send it wide of the net.
After the Brown save both side seemed to hit the wall of playing at altitude with 10 men. The match just about fizzled out. By the end both teams were just stood still waiting for the final 20 seconds of stoppage time to pass.
It was an ugly, gritty game. S2 didn’t look particularly good, but not many sides would on that horrible of a field. All in all it is a very good result for S2. Gutsy road draws are not something they got last year (they only had 4 draws all year) so this is definitely an improvement and what they need to do if they want to be in the playoff picture.
Lineup: Calle Brown; Denso Ulysse, Rodrigue Ele, Sam Rogers, Ibrahim Usman; Ray Saari - captain, Dylan Teves (Shandon Hopeau 75’); David Olsen, David Estrada (Francisco Narbon 64’), Azriel Gonzalez (Nick Hinds 56’); Felix Chenkam