TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders FC 2 begins its 2016 USL campaign on Friday, March 25 (7:30 p.m. PT) at Starfire Sports, the club's second since its inception in October 2014.
Following a successful maiden voyage with a playoff appearance and two players ultimately signed to first-team contracts, S2 will be looking to advance its developmental purpose and process.
“With S2, it’s not so much about winning,” said head coach Ezra Hendrickson. “We do want to win because we feel that winning is a part of a player’s development…but the main focus is to develop these players.”
S2 has been successful so far in its player development, earning forwards Andy Craven and Oalex Anderson first-team contracts. There is still room for improvement, however, and one primary focus of the improvement over last year will be keeping the consistency of the roster.
“We went through 44 players last year, so we’re hoping to have more consistency.” Hendrickson said. “With a little more consistency we can better develop players and that’s what S2 is really all about.”
Hendrickson also indicated some big changes to come for S2 in not only player turnover, but also formation and style of play.
“I think it’s best for us if we’re mimicking what the first team is doing because that way it’s an easier slide,” said Hendrickson. “At the end of the day, the goal of S2 players is to get to the first team and I think that helps them to be better prepared.”
Midfielder Zach Mathers is a prime example of a player who might benefit greatly from S2’s adoption of the 4-3-3 formation. As a second-round draftee of the Sounders in January, Mathers will be looking to make the jump in the next year or two, and some experience with the first team's formation will be critical if the call comes.
“I’ve actually never played it before with any college or club team, so it’s different for sure,” Mathers said. “With a 4-4-2 you’ve got some more help on the wings whereas now we have three guys forward a bit more so in the midfield we have to be tighter … So that’s going to be a little bit different for me.”
With new teammates and a formational shift to master, Mathers has his work cut out for him, but expressed confidence about getting started with his S2 career.
“The guys are good with S2," said Mathers, "so it’ll be a great learning experience for me.”