Seattle Sounders FC 2’s newest signing, Charles Renken, has hit the ground running in the Pacific Northwest. The U-20 USMNT starlet turned nomadic journeyman joined the Rave Green on May 26, making S2 his sixth professional club since 2010.
Renken, 23, brings a wealth of professional experience, domestically and abroad, to a young side that relies heavily on the contributions of teenage prospects. And although it’s a small sample size, his first two games for S2 indicate he’ll bring a much-needed direct option to the team’s style of play.
“He has a skill set that we don’t really have: just that ability to go 1-v-1 against defenders and a little bit of pace on the wing,” S2 head coach Ezra Hendrickson said of Renken. “He’s able to stretch the defense a little with his pace and help us have a little bit more space to play because then the defenders have to worry about someone who can get in behind them.”
As a team that likes to build from the back, S2 needs a more direct option in the attack. If opposing teams drop defensively, which they tend to do against a possession team like S2, then Renken has the dribbling and 1-v-1 ability to generate quality chances against a compact defense. But if they high-press further up the pitch, Renken possesses the pace to punish the other team’s high defensive line by making run after run into the acres of space in behind.
The introduction of the former Arizona Republic and Saint Louis FC player has already made S2’s attack more multi-dimensional. His breakneck pace and vision in transition make S2’s counterattacking far more potent. Defenders tend to gravitate in droves towards Renken in an effort to keep him contained, which frees up teammates for open looks in the final third.
“His skill set is something that we don’t have a ton of in terms of a speedy wide guy that can take people on 1-v-1 and put good balls into the box and create some chances for the strikers and other attacking midfielders,” Sounders FC Director of Player Personnel Kurt Schmid said of Renken. “From that standpoint, he brings something a little different to the team.”
In his two matches since joining the club, Renken has already recorded two assists as a second-half substitute. The first, a cross from the right flank that found the head of David Olsen against Sacramento Republic, perfectly illustrates the dynamism Renken brings to S2’s attack.
A few minutes prior to this play, Renken had dribbled past his defender and whipped in a cross. As a result, two Republic defenders closed him down in order to restrict his ability to drive into space. But in doing so, they left Olsen 1-v-1 at the back post — a matchup the former striker is always likely to win.
Plays like this are exactly what the S2 coaching staff expected from Renken: The ability to be individually dangerous while also creating chances for his teammates. Renken on the right flank can consistently blow by his defender and drive into the box for a shot, or he can whip crosses into the box for Irvin Parra or Felix Chenkam to attack with the added threat of Olsen crashing the back post. He can also cut the ball back for late runs from Ray Saari and Lorenzo Ramos, presenting them with excellent shooting opportunities in the box.
While Renken brings plenty of positive traits to an already exciting group of attacking players, he can also help the team away from the pitch. Guys like Shandon Hopeau and Azriel Gonzalez, whom the club has high hopes for in the future, can learn from Renken’s vast experience at the club and international level. He can mentor young players and guide them through the rigors of professional soccer. And if he continues to play the way he has in his first two games, he can write a new chapter in his already exciting soccer journey.
“[Renken] is a good addition to the team and should strengthen the squad,” said Schmid. “He’s still young enough where, if he pushes the right buttons, he can compete to be on the first team.”