Preview: S2 heads to Vancouver looking to avenge previous loss to Whitecaps FC 2

Charles Renken S2 2017-06-09

Seattle Sounders FC 2 hits the road once again this weekend for an away match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. The Rave Green will try and avenge their loss to their Cascadia rivals back on April 8, a match that saw S2 concede three goals and struggle to generate chances. Head coach Ezra Hendrickson should enjoy a full complement of players for the second meeting, as a number of key players will return to the side after missing last week’s topsy-turvy away loss to Orange County SC.

WFC2 will most likely line up in one of two formations: A 4-2-3-1 or a more attack-minded 4-3-3. Filled to the brim with technical midfielders and pacey attackers, WFC2 likes to build through the midfield before working the ball wide for the wingers to attack 1-v-1.

While some teams try to establish possession to work the ball from side to side in order to unbalance the opposing back line, WFC2 is far more functional with the ball. Rather than spreading a team out by keeping the ball, they overload one side in order to attack with a numerical advantage.

WFC2 overloads the channels by working the ball to the winger and sliding across one or two center midfielders to provide support in possession. At the same time, the striker drifts away from the central channel and makes an inside-out run between the center back and outside back. If the Whitecaps are really probing down one side, they will push their outside back into the attack to overlap the winger. That leaves the opposing team with the difficult task of tracking two runners, cutting out four or five passing lanes while not allowing the winger to cut inside and shoot.

This offensive overloading is made even more potent by WFC2 consistently keeping the weak-side winger high and wide. So if the defending team tries to match the overloaded side man-for-man, the Whitecaps’ wide players are technical enough to turn out of pressure and switch the point of attack, immediately putting the weak-side winger in on goal.

Fortunately for the Rave Green, they have the personnel and system to stagnate Vancouver’s attack. When WFC2 works the ball wide to the wingers, S2’s double pivot of Ray Saari and Francisco Narbon should slide across to restrict passes to the opposing central midfielders and impede the winger from cutting in. Rodrigue Ele and Sam Rogers will be tasked with tracking runs from the striker, while S2’s outside midfielders must track back.

Here are three storylines to follow.

Olsen and Renken Time

If S2 is to collect three points on the road this weekend, it’ll need excellent performances from David Olsen and Charles Renken. Thankfully, each is well-suited to this matchup and should take full advantage.

The biggest weakness for WFC2 is spacing in midfield and in defense, which will leave gaps all over the field for S2 to exploit. More specifically, the spacing between their outside backs and center backs is often poor. This leaves massive gaps for Olsen and Renken to play penetrating through balls into the path of the striker. It also means that the WFC2 center backs need to cover a lot of ground to close them down, so look for both wingers to cut inside and shoot.

Hopeau Returns from Injury

Speaking of the importance of wide players, S2 Homegrown winger Shandon Hopeau should make his return to USL action this weekend after a lengthy layoff. Hopeau, 18, has been recovering from an ankle injury and has not made an appearance for S2 since May 13. Despite missing so much time, the Hawaiian enters the weekend in fine form after starring for the Sounders Academy U-18s in the Academy playoffs. His three goals in three games for the young Sounders proved crucial, as the squad advanced from Group C, which contained the likes of New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas.

Amanda vs. Rogers Rematch

Center back Rogers, who also joined the U-18s for the Academy playoffs, will face a familiar foe this weekend in the form of young attacker Gloire Amanda, a hyper-talented Canadian youth international. Amanda, 18, spent three seasons in the Whitecaps Academy, scoring 48 goals in all competitions for the U-16s and U-18s. Rogers, who recently signed directly from the Sounders Academy, has faced the pacey Canadian dozens of times as the two clubs compete in the same division. Formally a holding midfielder, Rogers should get plenty of opportunities to go toe-to-toe with his former Academy rival as a center back for S2.

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