Another S2 season, another batch of big matches you won’t want to miss.
USL unveiled its 2016 league schedule on Tuesday, meaning S2 will be back for their second season in just a matter of weeks. The staff at SoundersFC.com have pegged five key matches to watch in the new year, whether it’s a 2,000-mile road trip to take on a brand-new expansion team or playing host to a bevy of matches against bitter rivals.
Here’s a look at our top five:
5. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (April 17, Starfire Stadium)
Just four weeks into the 2016 season, S2 will get their first test against the team that dispatched them from the 2015 USL Playoffs last September. S2 had the edge over the Switchbacks with a draw and a win during the regular season, but the playoff loss cut the season off long before S2 supporters wanted to see it end. This time, S2 will be looking for a bit of revenge early on in the season.
4. Rio Grande Valley FC (Aug. 13, RGV FC Stadium)
It won’t be S2’s first time facing the brand new Rio Grande Valley FC (the new Houston Dynamo affiliate visits Starfire in Week 4), but when the Sounders make the trip to Rio Grande in mid-August, it will be the longest trip of the season (1,975.66 miles). The expansion side is led by former Chivas USA coach Wilmer Cabrera, who led the Goats in their final campaign in 2014. An S2 win nearly 2,000 miles away would feel mighty fine in the final third of the season.
3. Portland Timbers 2 (Aug. 29, Starfire Stadium)
Cascadia matches are always big at any level, and a win comes with plenty of bragging rights in this part of the country. S2 won all four league matches against T2 in 2015 and even grabbed a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup victory against the Portland Timbers affiliate. S2 will hope to continue their winning ways from 2015, and a late-season victory over the rivals would be the cherry on top as the two clubs ramp up for the 2016 USL Postseason.
2. Sacramento Republic (March 25, Starfire Stadium)
S2 will get another chance to make a statement in its season opener against a familiar foe. The club kicked off its inaugural season in 2015 with a 4-2 win over the defending USL champions from Sacramento, and Republic will make the trip to open up the 2016 campaign again on March 25 at Starfire. A win against a team vying for an expansion slot in the MLS would say a lot for the young S2 side looking to build a young squad with “high ceilings,” according to head coach Ezra Hendrickson.
1. LA Galaxy II (May 22, Starfire Stadium)
After splitting a pair of games against Los Dos home and away in 2015, S2 will get the chance for a huge win in the teams’ only matchup this season at Starfire. Both matches between the two clubs in 2015 were tightly contested, with each side taking a 1-0 win on home turf. LA II advanced all the way to the 2015 USL Championship, but lost 2-1 in overtime in the final to Eastern Conference side Rochester Rhinos. The only other time S2 could see LA in 2016 is if both clubs advance to the USL Postseason.