Match Day 22 will see San Antonio FC back on the road for the first of three straight road matches out West. We caught up with Dave Clark from Sounder at Heart (@sounderatheart) to get some perspective on Seattle Sounders 2. Here we go into another Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) The season is more than half over and these two teams are meeting for the first time – give us a quick overview of roster changes from 2017-2018 and how has the season gone?
(DC) Unlike past seasons Seattle Sounders 2 kept significant talent with them. Ray Saari and Fransisco Narbon came back to control the midfield, but both missed significant time due to injury. Narbon will be out for the rest of the season, almost certainly. Denso Ulysse is an exciting right back who can flair up the right side. Ibrahim Usman is a tall left back with good range and a fun cross. Both starting CBs returned. Rodrigue Ele and Sam Rogers are solid when they play. The outside mids also return. Nick Hinds is a speedster who cuts in for shots and short passes. Shandon Hopeau is more technical. They were to flank David Olsen, who also missed significant time with an injury. Felix Chenkam is probably out with a hamstring injury, but his early season was strong enough to earn an MLS deal.
The most significant addition is David Estrada. The MLS/NASL/USL veteran is challenging for the Golden Boot, while often averaging a decade older than the rest of the players. There’s a quartet of high schoolers signed to pro deals too, but half is away with the US U17s. Marlon Vargas and Azriel Gonzalez will be there to offer strong ball control from the midfield. Finally, they also added two flexible midfielders in Antonee Burke-Gilroy and Jesse Daley.
If you’ve followed through all that you noticed a lot of injuries and absences. For a team with such a small roster that means a lot of Academy kids getting playing time. That bodes well for the future, but poorly for this year.
- 2 – Let’s talk about the move to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. It seems to have raised the profile of S2 a bit as their attendance has been way better – which is saying something considering how the season has gone. What’s the environment like at S2 games in the new digs?
Cheney has lots of funky nooks and crannies and suites. Those suites are always full. The party decks and bullpen lounge are often full. It’s the standard seating that can be lacking sometimes. But it’s a huge improvement. The attendance for a team with such a poor record is impressive and it’s clear that Tacoma and the South Sound are embracing the team as their own. Now it just needs a brand that connects with them better.
- 3 – No way to sugar coat it – Seattle has had a rough go of it. They are in 16th place and they only have four wins. At one point they lost six in a row. If there’s any hope for a turnaround this season, where would it come from?
They need to press and press and press. They are at their best when attacking instinctively rather than through designed play. When they press defensively they are opportunistic. It’s great. If the attack slows down not only is it predictable, but the players start to think. It slows them down even more.
- 4 – When you’re having a season like this, is it tempting for the team to just say… forget about wins, let’s just focus on what we need to do to get these players ready for a potential move to Sounders?
That’s goal one, two and three of the organization. At the same point, they cannot afford to teach these prospects how to lose. Coach John Hutchinson is also trying to imprint that they need to play for not just pride in self, but pride in wearing the Sounders shirt and playing in Tacoma. That attitude is starting to show up and in many ways, it’s because of 31-year-old loanee Lamar Neagle.
5 – One player who has definitely stood out positively for Seattle has been David Estrda, who leads the team with eight goals as of this writing. Tell us more about him and what makes him so successful on the field?
Estrada is a former First Team player who drifted around the lower divisions for the past several years. He wears the 74 in honor of the year the Seattle Sounders began to play in the NASL. He’s also an Academy assistant coach, the first player-coach in the history of the MLS Sounders organization.
Why he’s succeeding is because he refuses to get down. He’s always positive and always grinding for a goal. He’s like a dog pursuing a ball, in that he will jump over anything, dodge others and make his own opportunities. There’s no die for David. His attitude is perfect for a team that will feature 7+ teenagers at a time.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about Seattle Sounders 2.
I could brag about myself here. I’m a blogger that got invited into the broadcast booth. But instead, I’m going to talk about Casey Catherwood. The Creative Director of the Rainiers/S2 tries things. There’s an Epic Sax Gorilla, halftime skits that have included puppies, loaves of bread, pineapples. There’s a turntable with classic records, the unique three-person booth. He worked to get smoke for goals and uses fireworks liberally like the minor league baseball presenter he is.
Every bit of success regarding the gameday experience is because Catherwood (again he’s my boss, but ask other people) truly loves the Tacoma area and enjoys sharing that passion whether through soccer or baseball.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – L W W W W, 2018 Road Record 2-4-3
Seattle Sounders 2 – L L L W L, 2018 Home Record 4-0-6
San Antonio FC: 34 points, GF 25, GA 24, GD +1, 6th in USL West
Seattle Sounders 2: 14 points, GF 20, GA 39, GD – 19, 16th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
Seattle will always hold special meaning for San Antonio fans. It was where this franchise began in 2016 and it was who they beat to earn their first ever win. The series has favored San Antonio from day one. In four overall meetings, San Antonio has three wins and there was one draw, at Toyota Field last year. Seattle has never defeated San Antonio. Overall San Antonio is 3-1-0 vs Seattle 2.
8/11/18 @ SEA
9/29/18 @ SA
The last time these two teams got together 15 months ago in May 2017, there wasn’t much happening besides yellow cards. There were 7 combined cards in a match that featured the likes of many now-former SAFC players such as Ben Newnam, Sebastian Ibeagha, Kris Tyrpak, Michael Reed, Billy Forbes, AJ Ajeakwa, Victor Araujo, Shawn Chin, and Devin Vega. My my, what a difference a year makes for a roster. The match ended 0-0 despite 62% possession from San Antonio and the fact that SAFC outshot Seattle 15-5. Here are the match highlights.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (9-7-5) at Seattle Sounders 2 (4-2-14) #SEAvSA
Cheyney Stadium, Saturday, August 11
Kickoff 9:00 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
San Antonio left Orange County with a 3-0 thumping and ended the first half of the 2018 season looking like a team on the brink of collapsing into disappointment. San Antonio decided they were going to be a different team in the second half of the season.
All they have done since that ugly night in California is reel off four straight victories. They have outscored their opponents 9-4 during the stretch. It’s their longest win streak since April 2017. It’s the second-longest winning streak in SAFC history and they will have a chance to match the longest with another win this Saturday night. And it’s very doable.
San Antonio is now the hottest team in USL thanks to a Reno loss and no one is more on fire for SAFC than Ever Guzman. This is what we expected out of Guzman when the season started and now that he is providing big results, the team is thriving and performing at their best all season. It’s three goals in three straight games for the dynamic Forward (he sat out the Colorado match in the middle of this win streak). His latest goal ties him with Gordon for the team lead in league goals with four. If he can continue to produce goals at this rate, San Antonio will be very tough to beat.
Ethan Bryant became just the third player to have multiple Assists in 2018 (King, Lopez) with his assist on the Guzman goal in the second half against LA – a goal that would prove to be the match winner after a Gordon penalty kick was saved and LA added a late goal; the match ending 2-1 in favor of San Antonio. Speaking of King, he had the goal of the match vs LA. After two bicycle kick attempts in the same sequence by SAFC – the first one from Hedrick, which rattled the crossbar – the ball bounced to an open King at the top of the box and he hammered it home for the early lead. A magnificent strike for the Defender, which landed on SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays. It was King’s first league goal of the season. King also scored a goal in Open Cup play earlier this season.
It was another match featuring a back line of King, McCarthy, Hedrick, and Cochrane. San Antonio really seems to have something in this group. They are looking completely in-tune and they are playing very aggressively. None more so than Hedrick who continues to put his body on the line week in and week out, whether it’s a sprawling block attempt or going in for pinpoint tackles deep in their defensive end, his play has been most impressive.
Speaking of the back line, San Antonio FC parted ways with Defender Chris Christian this week. After featuring during the first month of the season, he had found himself on the outside looking in ever since. Most of the time, not even cracking the matchday 18. So this move wasn’t much of a surprise.
There’s been a bit of addition by subtraction in another area on the field too. After being a mainstay as captain for the first half of the season, Ryan Roushandel has given way to Cochrane. The journeyman has only appeared once in this four-game win streak, and that was the midweek game in a stretch of three matches over eight days. It’s not a huge leap to suggest that the days of featuring as a weekly starter might be over for the 32-year-old. Certainly, SAFC’s first-half struggles were much larger than just one player, but it can’t be argued that the team is playing much better with the new lineup. And one of those players in the new lineup has been Midfielder Charlie Ward. It took him a few matches to find his groove, but he has a goal and an assist in the three matches he has featured in during this four-match win streak. Not bad at all.
Seattle comes into this one really struggling. They lost to St Louis 2-0 over the weekend and they have lost four of their last five overall. Their ugly goal differential of negative nineteen is only ahead of Tulsa in USL West (-23) and they have only managed 14 points on the season. San Antonio has never lost to Seattle. Despite the fact that all four of Seattle’s wins this year have come at home, that shouldn’t be enough to change that all-time history. Not this week.
San Antonio has not been a good team on the road this season, but they should still feel really solid about their chances in this one. Anything other than a win would be a disappointment as San Antonio looks to extend a historic win streak for the franchise. We think SAFC cruises to victory and makes it five straight.
San Antonio FC – 3
Seattle Sounders 2 – 0
SAFC “Did You Know?”
Jason Johnson scored two goals in San Antonio’s inaugural match against Seattle on April 3, 2016, including the first-ever goal in franchise history. His two goals are still the most by any player in a single match in this series.