TUKWILA, Wash. - Seattle Sounders FC 2 fell 2-0 at Swope Park Rangers in their final match of 2016 on Sept. 24, putting a bow on their sophomore season in the USL. The season was a tale of redemption for S2 who found themselves in an early hole and fighting for their lives the rest of the way.
After a devastating start at 0-3-1 and a minus-six goal differential at home, S2 battled back into the playoff picture only to fall short in the season’s final breathes. Not only that, but they did so on an extraordinarily road heavy back half of the season culminating in a four game road stretch to finish the year and attempt to get into the playoffs.
“I’ve got to tip my hat off to these guys,” said head coach Ezra Hendrickson. “For having such a bad start, and us as a staff really being on them to improve the soccer…They stuck with it, they grabbed the concept, the grasped the philosophy of how we’re trying to play as a team. We saw that improvement; we saw individual improvement. I thought every player improved throughout the season.”
S2 finished the season 12th in the West with 35 points and produced some exciting finishes along the way. No less than seven times over the course of the 30-game season, S2 scored in the last 10 minutes of a match to change the result.
One of the biggest challenges facing S2 at the beginning of the year was roster turnover. Coming into the 2016, S2 returned only three players from the previous season, leaving a very green, young team with the task of gelling quickly before their season got beyond their control. This is something that Hendrickson sees as an area of improvement for the club.
“We’re hoping that as we move along, that as we become older and more mature as a second team that it’s a more consistent roster from year to year,” he said. “Last year we went through 44 players, this year not as much, next year hopefully even less. All in all, the club is in a good position. We have some guys here at S2 that we see going to the next level, and definitely some guys in the academy coming up that we think are going to be the future of this club.”
One player who was consistent on the roster across both seasons was goalkeeper Charlie Lyon. Signed to a first-team contact but third on the depth chart behind Stefan Frei and Tyler Miller, Lyon has been a mainstay for S2 in both their first and second seasons. Given his experience, Lyon shared some comments on what it’s been like to see the young club progress.
“Definitely this year was a little bit smoother for everybody,” he said. “We knew how to get things done off the field and everything taken care of. As a player it just left us with our job on the field and it was good in the sense that all we had to worry about was our performance.”
Forward Darwin Jones finished as the team’s leading scorer with seven goals and one assist, the most notable of which was a last second game-winner against Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Starfire Stadium to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive.
The team’s leading assist duo was midfielder Zach Mathers who was the team’s primary linchpin in the center of the park and forward Myron Samuel who used his speed up the flank to present a constant threat to defenses. They both finished with four assists and three goals each.
Defender and Cameroonian newcomer Nouhou Tolo led the team in total minutes played, starting nearly every single match at left back. His aggressive and stout defending, combined with his athletic overlapping runs made him a valuable asset to the team and difficult for opposing sides all year.
The club will continue to train through October as the USL playoffs progress. Hendrickson and his staff will also continue to evaluate the players until roster decisions are made for next season.
“We have to make decisions on who we see has the potential or has the wherewithal to make the next step to the first team,” Hendrickson said. “Those decisions are always hard. We’re not always going to get it right, but we try as a staff and an organization to identify and develop the best available players. Not everyone is going to be a first team player. It’s that time of the year for those decisions to be made and we’re confident in who we see as those guys going forward with the team.”