By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
A season after reaching the USL Playoffs in the club’s inaugural season, Seattle Sounders FC 2 saw a major offseason overhaul that saw a number of the veteran leadership brought in to lead the club’s youngsters jettisoned.
As a result, Coach Ezra Hendrickson’s side will have a very different look this season. After using 44 players in 2015, a more consistent lineup is Hendrickson’s goal as he looks to blood a number of younger players.
“We’re going to try to have a little bit more consistency, because with a little more consistency, we can better develop players,” Hendrickson told a media gathering recently. “That’s what it’s really all about, getting these guys ready for first-team action.”
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S2 sent three players on to sign MLS contracts in its inaugural season, with forwards Andy Craven and Oalex Anderson and goalkeeper Tyler Miller all now part of the first team squad. Anderson’s success was one of the brightest spots of the year, as the St. Vincent & the Grenadines striker not only starred in the USL, but also for his national team in World Cup Qualifying.
The other SV&G player to have joined S2 last year, Myron Samuel, could be on a similar path. After having his season disappointingly cut short by a broken foot after scoring two goals and adding an assist in his only 45 minutes of action all season, Samuel is a player his fellow countryman Hendrickson has high hopes for.
“One of the reasons we signed an extension with him, even though he’s not with the first team, we see him as a player who’s going to be on the first team sooner rather than later,” Hendrickson said. “We wanted to make sure he stays with us, and we continue to grow him into that role.
“He’s a very good soccer player, you can tell from the 45 minutes he played for us last year, and he’s a guy that even though he’s 23, he’s played 46 times for his national team. He’s played in [CONCACAF] Champions League matches, so he’s a young guy with a lot of experience, like Oalex is, even though Oalex is only 20 years old. These guys have played in big games, so stepping onto CenturyLInk Field in front of 40,000 people doesn’t really faze them.”
For some of the newcomers to the team, like former Sounders FC U23 midfielder Jordan Schweitzer, getting the chance to get professional minutes is obviously appealing, but as important is helping the team follow up a successful first year of action.
“We still want to win games, that’s our job,” Schweitzer said. “At any level you want to continue to develop and grow as a player, but nothing changes. It’s about winning games.”
After getting the chance to observe former USL Rookie of the Year and current Sounders standout Ozzie Alonso up close, Schweitzer will likely have an important role to play as S2 moves to the same 4-3-3 formation now employed by the club’s MLS side.
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For a player like Zach Mathers, who joins S2 after being selected by Seattle in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, the adjustment to a new formation will provide an added wrinkle to stepping into the professional ranks.
“I’ve actually never played it before, with any club team or college team, so it’s different for sure,” Mathers said. “If you’re playing a 4-4-2 you can be a little bit looser with that, so I think that’s going to be a little bit different for me, but I may rotate between the holding mid [spot]. Sometimes we might have two players holding, sometimes we might have one, it just kind of depends on who we’re playing, how it will affect where I might go.”
As Friday night’s opening game of the season against Sacramento Republic FC draws close, though, the team is looking forward to the atmosphere at Starfire Stadium that will accompany opening night of Season 2 for S2.“This is my first year, so I don’t really know all too much about how it was in years before this, but I’m really excited,” Mathers said. “I’ve heard how awesome Sounders fans are, and I’m sure it will be just as great for the S2 crowd. I’m excited.”