Preview: Seattle Sounders FC 2 battle Reno 1868 FC looking to extend unbeaten streak to four games

Parra S2 goal celebration 2017-05-05

Seattle Sounders FC 2 hits the road once again this weekend for a USL Western Conference clash against Reno 1868 FC on Saturday, May 20, with the hopes of extending the current unbeaten run to four matches. The Rave Green enter in fine form after grinding out a difficult scoreless draw away to league-leaders San Antonio FC.

Reno 1868 FC, the USL affiliate for the San Jose Earthquakes, plays a similar style to its parent club, with a few twists. Much like the Earthquakes, the Nevada side lines up in a classic 4-4-2. The biggest differences, however, are the roles of the two-man forward line and the outside midfielders.

Rather than play a two-man forward line with a target forward and a second striker playing just off him, Reno uses two No. 9s as a left striker and a right striker. The outside midfielders don’t provide pace and establish width, but rather operate as inverted playmakers. And when in possession, one of the central midfielders will drop deep while the other pushes into the attack, effectively morphing a traditional 4-4-2 into a possession-oriented 4-1-3-2.

Another way Reno deviates from San Jose is its commitment to establishing possession and generating chances through expansive build-up play. The club averages 428.7 passes per game, which is roughly 60 more than S2, and have a five percent higher pass-completion percentage than the Rave Green. This indicates a high-tempo, short-range passing strategy that looks to unbalance the opposition in order to play incisive passes into the strikers.

Two players to watch for Reno are midfielder Jackson Yueill and striker Dane Kelly. Yueill, a No. 10 for UCLA and the U.S. U-20s and San Jose’s first-round 2017 MLS SuperDraft selection, plays as right-sided midfielder for the San Jose affiliate. Since he lacks the pace to consistently beat his man 1-v-1 and whip in crosses, he typically drifts inside to connect with teammates and play through balls for the two strikers. Kelly, Week 6’s USL Player of the Week, leads the team in goals with five.

Here are three tactical matchups to watch.


Much like the Earthquakes in 2012, most of the players on Reno 1868 FC are dominant in the air. In fact, the team wins 59 percent of its aerial duels, which is an astounding 15 points higher than S2. Of the 10 goals the squad has scored this season, four of them have come via headers. The solution to this problem for S2 is simple: deny wide players the opportunity to cross, restrict free-kick chances and keep the ball on the ground when in possession.

The final point, keeping the ball on the ground, will be the most important for S2. While Reno is dominant in the air, it struggles mightily when it comes to tackling. S2 midfielder Francisco Narbon has won twice as many tackles (30) as the leading tackler for Reno.


Two of Reno’s standout players, goalkeeper Matt Bersano and center back Jimmy Ockford, have ties to S2. Bersano was the third-choice goalkeeper for S2 last season behind Tyler Miller and current Orange County SC ‘keeper Charlie Lyon. Ockford spent three seasons with the club and made a total of 13 appearances for S2.

Irvin Parra has started several matches for S2 as the No. 9. If he resumes that role this weekend, then he’ll have plenty of opportunities to duke it out with Ockford and test Bersano. Parra’s familiarity with two of Reno’s best players should be an advantage for the Rave Green.


Since the Reno defenders struggle when it comes to tackling, look for S2 to work the ball to the flanks for the wingers to attack 1-v-1. With guys like Shandon Hopeau and David Olsen working the wide channels, Reno’s midfielders will be forced to drop back and support defensively. If S2 can maintain possession in the attacking third, they can pin back the outside midfielders and effectively starve the opposing strikers of service.

With Reno struggling to defend in 1-v-1 scenarios, it typically adopts a ‘“defend by committee” approach, sagging off the attacker and showing him toward a second defender. While this strategy can limit space and cut out passing lanes, it has one major weakness: shots from distance. Since the defenders drop off so as not to get beaten on the dribble, they allow attackers time and space to pick out their spot and unleash a shot. And with Hopeau and Olsen more than capable of scoring from the edge of the area, there could be a few golazos in store. 



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