Sounders FC 2 played its final regular season match of the 2018 season, wrapping up its inaugural campaign at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Wash.
“Obviously, the results are disappointing,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “But, I think if you delve a little bit deeper, and you look at some of the other metrics, the performances perhaps bely the results. We are the youngest team in USL, and with that there’s a steep learning curve. I think that we’re lucky that we have an environment where young players are challenged and given opportunities. But, at the same time, we all understand that we want to be a competitive team and that has to be a part of our planning and process as we continue this project.”
The 2018 season has featured plenty of positive storylines and moments: the return of David Estrada, a pair of 16-year-olds (Josh Atencio and Alec Diaz) scoring their first professional goals, Sam Rogers breaking into the U.S. U-20 national team, the emergence of Azriel Gonzalez, and plenty of avid fans showing their support at Cheney Stadium.
As a conduit between the Academy and the First Team, S2’s primary mandate is player development. However, attaining results at the professional level is an important aspect of development, as it instills a winning culture and hunger for future success.
With that in mind, let’s review some of the statistics and figures from the 2018 S2 season.
20.9: The weighted-average age of S2 for this season has been 21.1-years-old, the youngest of any team in USL. This figure is calculated by multiplying the age of each player who featured for S2 by the percentage of overall minutes played, and then summing that number for each player that saw game time. If you deduct the figures for Bryan Meredith and Calle Brown – two First Team goalkeepers that combined for 2610 minutes – that number drops to 18.6.
451 and 53%: S2 has averaged 451 passes per game and registered 53% possession on the season. Since the USL side prepares prospects for MLS, it’s important that their game model shares similar principles with that of the First Team, with sustained possession and metronomic passing being two examples. The team made this transition to adopt a similar style to that of the First Team a couple of years ago, and these figures signal progress, as they averaged 411 passes-per game and 51% possession in 2017.
12: A total of 12 players from the Sounders U-17 team that won the 2017-18 USSDA national championship earned professional minutes with S2 this season.
4,983: Sounders Academy players have combined for 4,803 minutes in USL. The club believes that exposing talented youngsters to higher levels of competition accelerates development. In fact, a study conducted by City Football Group, which the Academy staff often cites with respect to vertical integration, that 83% of players who’ve competed in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League throughout the last 10 years made their first team debuts at 17. With that in mind, it’s important to take young Academy players out of their comfort zone and expose them to the quality and speed of play in USL at a young age.
7,095: At the other end of the spectrum, S2 is also a valuable medium for young players on the First Team. Ultimately, players between the ages of 18-23 need professional minutes to continue to develop, or to regain match fitness when returning from injury. Sounders FC First Team players like Handwalla Bwana, Alex Roldan and Henry Wingo have played a combined 7,095 minutes in the USL this season.
15: On September 29, 15-year-old Sounders Academy midfielder Danny Leyva became the youngest player in club history to make his professional debut as he started and played the full 90 minutes in a road match against San Antonio FC.
- READ: S2 prospects Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Danny Robles named to U.S. U-17 national team for England trip
252: S2 has generated 240 key passes this season, another indication that the results don’t necessarily reflect the performances on the pitch. In his second professional season, Shandon Hopeau leads this category with 27 chances created. With a bit more efficiency in front of goal, the team likely would have picked up a few more points.
3: A total of three S2 players – Denso Ulysse, Sam Rogers and Rodrigue Ele – landed on USL’s 20-Under-20 list for the 2018 season.
9: As the club has stated in the past, the Academy will provide the backbone of S2 in the years to come. With so much talent currently moving up the pipeline, the first wave of players to benefit from the youth system’s expansive programming and development initiatives are just breaking into S2. There are nine players under contract on this year’s roster who came through Sounders Academy – 11 if you count Danny Robles and Diaz, whose contracts will kick in for the 2019 season.