Sounders FC 2 (7-11-2) returns to the road once again for its third tilt of the season against USL Western Conference opponent Sacramento Republic (7-6-4) on Sunday, July 23. The Rave Green will look to reverse their fortunes against the Northern California club, having collected just a single point from their two previous encounters.
The match on Sunday will be S2’s third fixture in a span of eight days. Conversely, the Republic will enter the affair incredibly well-rested, with their last league competition occurring back on back on July 1. While the Rave Green are in the midst of a difficult run of form, with just three points from their last four games, the upcoming match presents an opportunity to right the ship and return to winning ways.
Much like the recent fixtures between these two sides, Sacramento will send their team out in an empty-bucket 4-4-2, relying on the creativity of Danny Barrera and the pace of Tyler Blackwood to stretch S2’s defense. Up top, forwards Trevin Caeser, who’s in scorching form with four goals in his last three appearances, and Wilson Kneeshaw will shoulder the offensive workload.
While S2 has struggled at times against the Republic this season, Sunday’s match presents an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Seattle will be well aware of Sacramento’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as key players they’ll need to game plan around. But with a couple of new signings, a few First Team players, and a wealth of Academy talent to draw upon, S2 holds the upper hand in terms of scouting. And with Rodrigue Ele, Sam Rogers, David Olsen, Irvin Parra and Shandon Hopeau missing the loss to Swope Park Rangers, the spine of the team will be well-rested for Sunday’s affair.
Here are three things to watch against the Republic.
Sammy The Super Sub
Former Sounder Sammy Ochoa, who is tied for the lead in goals scored for the Republic this season, appears to have lost his place in Sacramento’s first-choice lineup, starting each of the last three matches on the bench. Ochoa, 30, scored the equalizer against S2 on the opening day of the season, and generally offers a physical presence as the No. 9. His clever movement in the box and willingness to battle with center backs will provide a stern test for the S2 defense. If he starts the match on the bench, the Rave Green defenders will need to be wary of his nose for goal when he enters the fray, especially since Sacramento has already scored three goals after the 80th minute against Seattle this season.
Test The Goalkeeper
All three of the goals that S2 has scored against the Republic this season have come from crosses. The Republic’s goalkeeper at the time, 37-year-old Domink Jakubek, struggled to cope with aerial service. He’s since lost his starting job to Evan Newton, who appears to be a legitimate upgrade in goal. Newton does, however, have a few glaring weaknesses to his game, namely distribution and shot-stopping. With a pass-completion percentage of just 67.7%, S2 should look to apply pressure every time he receives the ball to his feet. Look for the S2 wingers to test Newton’s command of the six-yard box early on by pumping in crosses from both flanks.
Sacramento is an incredibly well-balanced team that looks to build attacks out of the back, unbalance the opposing defense with possession and play penetrating passes between the lines. Most of their chances come from the clever feet of outside midfielder Danny Barrera, who has racked up an astounding 43 chances created this season - nearly twice the amount of the player next up on the list. Barrera is the type of player who dribbles with a purpose, meaning he likes to use his skill to create separation from his defender before producing defense-splitting passes. In order to restrict his ability to do so, the outside backs will need to be disciplined in their 1v1 defending and at least one holding midfielder needs to slide across to offer support.