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Despite a solid performance Sounders 2 fall to Fresno FC at Cheney

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Narbon, Saari and Hinds were the standouts among many good performances from an unlucky S2.

Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

After a frustrating performance in Kansas Seattle Sounders FC 2 put in a much better showing at home against Fresno FC. They dominated possession for most of the game and had a thrilling 20 minute stretch to start the second half that could have seen them score multiple times. Unfortunately all the good work didn’t pay off and a late goal from Fresno saw Fresno leave Cheney with a 1-0 win and all three points.

It was a promising match all around despite the result, but three S2 players were particularly impressive

Notable Performers

Ray Saari (CDM)

It was nice to have Saari back in the lineup, the Academy kids and Alex Roldan did okay replacing him but they weren’t able to replicate what Saari brings to the S2 side. Saari did his typical good work on the defensive side, making Fresnos life difficult in transition with his excellent positioning. He had 2 tackles and 1 interception, which is a bit low for him, but added in 9 recoveries. He also had a solid passing night, completing 85% with a key pass.

In the offseason Saari stated that the First Team told him some areas that he could improve on this year so I watched for area’s that he has improved on from last year. There were two places I thought he was much better. The first was transitioning from defense to attack quicker. Last year he was sometimes a bit slow turning with the ball and driving it up field. He would often take a settling touch and then look up to try and decide where to go with the ball. In this match I noticed him working a lot harder to identify what he was going to do with the ball before it got to him. He was looking upfield before the ball got to him instead of after it arrived. This enabled him to use his first touch to launch himself upfield into space instead of just settling the ball. This allowed S2 to start attacks from more dangerous positions and before Fresno could get back on defense. The second area of improvement was that his late runs were more decisive and deeper into the attacking area. Late runs from midfield are very hard for the defense to pick up and allow Saari to function effectively as an attacker and a defender. You can see examples of these runs in the 38’, where Saari should have been awarded a penalty, and the 63’, where Saari was able to slip Olsen in behind from within the box. If he continues to improve in these two areas we might see him with the First Team sooner rather than later.

Francisco Narbon (CB)

The Panamanian defensive midfielder made his first start at centerback for S2 and there were a lot of things to like. While he was a bit shaky positionally in the first twenty minutes, often finding himself way to far upfield, Narbon settled in to the CB role nicely as the game wore on. From the very beginning of the game he showed a great ability to anticipate danger and snuff it out starting with a good anticipatory run and tackle in the 13’ that prevented Fresno from being one on one with Meredith. He made another similar last ditch block in the 50’ to eliminate a dangerous Fresno attack. He also showed a great ability to use his body to disrupt bigger attackers. He threw off a free header for Fresno in the 25’ and prevented a forward from getting in behind with a well timed little nudge in the 40’.

Narbon is also a very good passer, especially when he only has those in front of him on the field to worry about. He controlled things from the back, completing 102 passes, 24 of which were long passes. You can see a short sequence where he started two attacks from deep in the 29-30 minutes.

Narbon wasn’t perfect though and lost a bit of concentration late in the game. He had a terrible clearance in the 65’ that could have lead to a goal and lost his runner in the box in the 78’ who really should have scored off of the free header Narbon allowed him. Narbon is not going to usurp Rodrigue Ele or Sam Rogers, but he has shown himself to be versatile and a decent backup option at CB for S2.

Nick Hinds (AM)

The new kid from Akron is exciting to watch. He is dynamic going forward and lightning fast, probably only behind Jordan Morris and Nouhou in the organization. I am actually surprised just how good the once/sometimes LB is attacking one on one. Hinds showed off his speed early in with a busting run in the 2’ if you want to see what he is working with. Hinds was S2’s most dangerous attacker throughout the match and was constantly getting himself free with the ball in and around the box. Defenders in the USL are not going to be able to defend him one on one. The question is whether Hinds can make the correct final decision to end an attack. He struggled to do that for a lot of this game, with many of his fantastic drives ending with a poor pass or an ill-advised shot. He did show some improved decision making towards the end of his run out and ended up with 3 chances created including a very clever threaded pass to Olsen in the 58’. It will be fun to watch how dangerous Hinds becomes as he improves his decision making.

Hinds also showed some much improved defense in this match. His pressing was dangerous and well timed all night, included the press he led in the 38’ that resulted in a one on one chance for Chenkam. In the 7’ Hinds put in some excellent work to track all the way back into the defensive third and do some solid one on one defending. It is the part of his game that needs the most work but it is encouraging that he is already improving his defensive effort and technique this early in the season.

First Team call up power rankings

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