S2

Seattle Sounders 2: Let’s Leave Less To Chance

I’m known to get a little too excited with potential and prospects, but after watching Seattle Sounds 2 dispatch the defending USL champion Sacramento Republic on Saturday night I have to ask. How much will the presence of S2 affect the makeup of the first team roster?

Everyone watching S2’s inaugural game came away impressed. Gorgeous ball movement, deft finishing, solid set pieces: the definition of Sounders soccer. Who wasn’t tempted to think if Rossi or Craven or Mansaray could do the same things at the next level? Sometimes lesser competition muddies the evaluation of talent. However. Rossi’s quality on his free kick goal, Mansaray crossing the final assist with the outside of his foot to a streaking Roldan, and Craven’s balance and touch controlling the pass before smashing it home are all translatable skills.

As I discussed recently, sports is about new blood. In baseball, the late season Triple-A call-up who contributes to the playoff run. But soccer in the United States has long lacked a competent minor league. So has the NFL, but that league is still littered with stories where “untested” scout teamers blossom on the biggest stage. Kurt Warner was a journeyman nobody until Trent Green got injured in the preseason. Same with Tom Brady until Drew Bledsoe’s week 2 injury. The coaches saw plenty of both at practice, enough to slot them second string but without a timely injury, they’d never have surpassed the coach’s wildest imagination. “Next man up” is great and all, but what if the next man never gets the chance?

A bias exists on the practice field. Professional sports, the last great meritocracy, is not exactly that. The human animal is sentimental and risk averse. It is much easier to reward past performance than project future returns. Most coaches and managers have trouble selling high (see Amaro Jr., Ruben, and the Philadelphia Phillies). A good coach should cull as ruthless as death the “soon-to-be” from the “just-was”. Belichick lucked into Brady. He and the Patriots had just signed the 29 year-old Drew Bledsoe to a then-record 10-year, $103 million contract. How was “the greatest coach of all time” unable to see that the young Brady was ripe to overtake the old pro? If the Patriots had a developmental team, say the Pats 2, they may have known sooner that Brady was the future.

DeAndre Yedlin is arguably the Sounders’ Brady, a talented unknown who became a star because of an injury to a trusted vet. The Sounders had no intention of moving on from Adam Johansson until his injury. Sigi is a sharp evaluator of talent, he knew when to move on from Eddie and Mauro, but he wasn’t clamoring to start Yedlin back in March 2013. We, and the USMNT, got lucky Johansson was injured that preseason. S2 should take a little luck out of the equation.

I doubt presence of S2 provides serious roster churn this season but, at least, when we have to replace Deuce and Oba we’ll have a much better idea of who’s next up.

A New Hope: S2 and the Future of the Seattle Sounders

Welcome to the future Sounders fans! Tonight S2 dusts off their opaque logo for the first time ever.

This is where new President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey is gonna earn his pay. Yes he was hired to do the tricky job of making a great team greater, but also to oversee the development of S2. You need new blood. The Sounders built a strong Academy system and have always been good with scouting, player development and signing Home Grown talent. But a regular and competitive minor league team is indispensable.

Sports explores mortality. Everyone ages, breaks down and ACLs happen. Sports asks us, what can you do with your brief shot in the sun? “Next man up” has become a cliché because a team can never expect all its players all the time (if only we had Ozzie against L.A.). S2 will become the lifeblood of the senior team.

Recently signed rightback Oniel Fisher exemplifies the “next man up.” Lagerwey said Fisher was signed to a senior team contract because of his Jamaican national team pedigree and his position. With the loss of Yedlin, and the age of starter Tyrone Mears, the Sounders hope to see him develop into an MLS-starting caliber player with S2.

Lagerwey also discussed some of the mechanics of the roster relationship between the Sounders and S2. He said, “You can loan down, but not loan up. It’s not 100% black and white but that’s the simplest …way to express it… [Elevating] guys on an S2 contract is trickier…” Thus the reason Fisher is on a senior team contract.

S2 has only eight players under contract, not enough to field a full 18, let alone a starting eleven. Lagerwey said to expect guys loaned down from the Sounders and even some loaned up from the Academy for the duration of the season. S2’s roster is currently:

Qudus Lawal

Nick Miele

Duncan McCormick

Sam Garza

Aaron Long

Amadou Sanyang

Andy Craven

Pablo Rossi

Oniel Fisher and Charlie Lyon are expected to log serious USL minutes, as are the HGPs, Aaron Kovar, Darwin Jones and Victor Mansaray. Recent draft picks Damion Lowe and Jimmy Ockford should also play. I am curious whether Cristina Roldan, he of two senior team appearances in his first two games, will develop with S2 or be held back with the big boys.

BOLD PREDCITION:

S2 doesn’t get a cakewalk in their first game ever, as they host the reigning USL Champs, Sacramento Republic. Sacramento is coached by former MLS-great Preki and just signed former Sounder David Estrada. Hell, I know nothing anything the USL: let’s say S2 wins.

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