Preview: Seattle Sounders FC 2 looking to avenge loss to San Antonio FC

Sounders FC 2 returns to the road for a rematch with top-of-the-table San Antonio FC on Saturday, May 13, with the hopes of winning a third match on the trot. The Rave Green will enter Toyota Field (5:30 p.m. PT) in fine form on the back of a resounding 2-0 win last week over Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers 2.

SAFC employs a unique system, which is effectively a bunker-and-counter 4-2-4 with the midfield double-pivot playing a crucial role in springing the four-man forward line in transition.

SAFC’s danger-man Billy Forbes was recently named USL Player of the Month for April, and for good reason. The dynamic winger has a tendency to drift in and out of matches, but all he needs is one or two chances to showcase his ruthless efficiency going forward. Despite only completing 8.25 passes per game, good for a passing accuracy of 61.7 percent, Forbes is tied for most goals (six) in the USL, third in assists (three) and leads SAFC in chances created (eight). With his blend of speed, power and dribbling, Forbes can flip a match on its head in a matter of seconds when afforded space on the counter.

SAFC likes to cede possession and sit back defensively in order to get numbers behind the ball. This forces the opponent to push numbers forward to try and break down the defense, leaving acres of space in behind. But when in possession, San Antonio can generate its own space in attack through the tactical role of the striker.

Forward Cesar Elizondo has been instrumental in the squad’s recent victories over Portland Timbers 2 and Sacramento Republic on the road. But he isn’t your prototypical target forward.

Elizondo operates as a False 9, first popularized by the Spanish national team and Cesc Fabregas in 2011. Rather than battling the center backs and competing for aerial balls, a False 9 drops deep to link-up play and has the freedom to roam all over the final third. This drags defenders out of position and creates gaps for teammates to exploit, which explains why Elizondo is second on the team in chances created despite only completing 15 passes in his last two matches.

Here are two tactical trends to watch.


While most teams tend to stay compact when defending in order to force any attacks away from goal and out to the flanks, S2 could flip the script against San Antonio. The Texas side thrives when it has space to attack, which is more abundant in the wide channels.

An examination of the statistics from SAFC’s 1-0 win over Sacramento Republic provides support for this approach. The Republic funneled SAFC toward the central channel where they had support from the holding midfielders. This resulted in only five chances created for the visitors and plenty of shots from distance. With Francisco Narbon and Ray Saari sitting deep and shielding the back four, S2 can force San Antonio inward and reduce its offense to speculative efforts.


Outside of Forbes and Elizondo, SAFC’s best generators of chances are the two fullbacks: Ben Newman and Greg Cochrane. Both defenders push forward to join the attack, which overwhelms opposing defenders. However, the space vacated by the fullbacks is left to the center backs or defensive midfielders to cover, which poses favorable 1-v-1 matchups for S2’s speedy wide players.

Another way to nullify the opposing outside backs is to keep wingers high up the pitch in order to pin them back in their own defensive third. By sending wave after wave of attack in the wide areas, S2 can force the defenders to stay back to remain stable defensively. Not only does this remove the threat of shots and crosses from outside backs, but it also starves Forbes of the decoy runners he needs to occupy defenders when he attacks on the break. And since Forbes contributes very little defensively, S2 can repeatedly create 2-v-1 attacks down the right by sending the right back forward.



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