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Promising Sounders 2 performance falls short in San Antonio

While they lost, a mostly Academy led attack showed just how bright the future could be.

Seattle Sounders 2 traveled to the Alamo City hoping to end San Antonio’s chance at the playoffs once and for all with a win or a draw. San Antonio scored two early but Azriel Gonzalez’s 2nd career goal brought the game back in reach at the end of the first half. Unfortunately, the conditions and a hectic opening 60 minutes left S2 want for energy as the game reached its zenith, and a poor turnover from Jalen Markey in the 72’ saw Rodrigue Ele sent off. S2 were unable to overcome these circumstances late and San Antonio scored again in extra time in lieu of a S2 comeback to see the match end 3-1. Despite the loss, it was not a match short of bright spots for S2 as the Academy-led offense looked electric at times.

S2 started on the front foot with some nice movement in midfield culminating in a decent shot from outside the box from Marlon Vargas that had Matt Cardone rooted to the ground, but it went just wide 24 seconds into the game. Shandon Hopeau followed Vargas’s long distance chance quickly with one of his own but, while he hit it well, it was ultimately too close to Cardone who got behind it to deny S2 a fantastic start.

Besides the two efforts from distance early, the story was the passing and defensive pressure in midfield from the youngest of the Sounders. Minus one bad moment from Jacob Castro with his feet, S2 dominated the match’s first 10 minutes with quick passing and high pressure.

As the match moved past its opening 10 minutes San Antonio began to solve the S2 pressure and found themselves with a lot of room to operate between the S2 midfield and backline. After a quick flurry of chances for San Antonio around the 12’, S2 made a smart adjustment as Jesse Daley dropped back to help the stretched back four repel San Antonio attacks in the box.

Unfortunately, this adjustment did little to protect S2 from a very poor goal kick from Castro in the 20’. The Academy keeper failed to reach the first S2 defender with his kick, finding instead Ezer Guzmán. This left San Antonio with the ball and two attackers behind the deepest S2 defender. Guzmán drew Castro out and then sent a well weighted pass to Lance Laing who sent the ball into the open net to give San Antonio the 1-0 lead.

Perhaps shocked by the sudden goal, S2 struggled to get back in the game after going down. San Antonio would quickly make them pay with a second goal in the 26’, this time from San Antonio’s first signing from their own academy, Ethan Bryant. Lance Laing was allowed to run down the left side unopposed and he picked out Bryant well with a cross. Bryant still had a lot to do though and did extremely well to hit a half volley off of a short hop past Castro to score his first professional goal and make it 2-0.

S2 recovered much quicker after the second goal and were soon pushing the ball deep into the San Antonio half. They had several chances to halve the deficit before the 35’ but didn’t quite have the prowess in front of net to finish their attacking moves. In the 39’ S2 got their best chance of the match when Vargas intercepted a poor Cardone pass and quickly found Alec Diaz with a pass that put him in on Cardone. The San Antonio ‘keeper atoned for his mistake however, and got the slightest of touches on Diaz’s shot with an outstretched right hand to send the ball just inches wide of his right post.

Just before half S2 were finally able to make good on a chance with a bit of individual brilliance from Gonzalez. The young S2 player got the ball down the left wing and was able to cut inside past a couple of San Antonio defenders. From there he sent in a perfectly placed right-footed curler from 20 yards to give S2 their first goal and make the game 2-1 at half.

S2 started the second half the same way they began the first, overwhelming San Antonio with their quick passing and somewhat wasting their dominance with shots from distance. But, again, San Antonio soon started to take advantage of S2’s all out attack on the counter. Castro looked much more confident, and his backline much more organized, though, and the game remained 2-1 through the early moments of the second.

From there the game settled down a bit, with neither side possessing the energy to keep up the all out pace of the games opening 60 minutes. S2 took up a more patient, probing tact, which allowed them to control the game for a stretch, but didn’t result in an equalizing goal. San Antonio sat back patiently, perhaps willing to bank on a mistake frome S2.

They were rewarded for their patience in the 72’ when Jalen Markey played an awful ball to no one that was easily intercepted by Laing who was in one-on-one with Castro. Ele attempted to slow Laing from behind but leaned on him a bit too hard and sent the midfielder tumbling. The ref reached for his back pocket and S2 were down to 10 men.

San Antonio seemed happy to see the game out from there, and after a hectic opening 60 minutes on a hot and humid night in Texas, S2 just didn’t have the energy to mount a final push while down a man. San Antonio added a third in extra time to officially put the game out of reach for S2 and San Antonio walked with all three points.

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