Sounders FC 2 returns to the road once again this weekend for an away matchup with USL Western Conference opponent Orange County SC on Saturday, June 23. The Rave Green will look to secure three points for the second match in a row after their last-gasp victory over Oklahoma City Energy FC in midweek. OCSC, an affiliate of LAFC, utilizes a pretty cut-and-dry 4-2-3-1 formation. Like with most teams that employ this system, the fullbacks provide the width, the double-pivot shields the back four and shuttles the ball forward and the No. 9 occupies the opposing center backs to free up space for his attacking midfielders in the final third.
One unique aspect of OCSC is the way in which the individual roles within its 4-2-3-1 system can vary from game to game. Sometimes the No. 10 operates as a the primary chance creator, roaming around the final third looking to pick out passes. Other times he pushes higher up the pitch and operates as a second striker. Sometimes the two holding midfielders sit deep and protect the back four, others they’ll drive forward to control possession.
There is one constant, however, for OCSC and that’s the stellar play of winger Jerry van Ewijk. Operating as an inverted winger on the left side, van Ewijk tends to drift toward the middle in order to generate looks on goal from the central channel. Van Ewijk, 23, has only completed 152 passes all season, but leads the team in goals (3) and chances created (14), and is tied for first in assists (1). His potent combination of skillful dribbling and efficient passing make him a nightmare in counter-attacking situations. If the Rave Green want to nullify the threat he poses on the wing, they’ll need to restrict service to wide areas and track his movement as he drifts around the final third.
With all of that in mind, it’s a bit a difficult to predict how this match will play out. OCSC has played just one match in the last month -- a 1-0 loss at home to Real Monarchs SLC -- while S2 will be without several key contributors due to suspension, injury and the Academy playoffs. But with both teams looking to play attractive, expansive soccer, it should turn out to be an exciting and attack-minded match.
Here are three storylines to watch.
The boys in Rave Green will compete against a friendly face on Saturday night, as former S2 goalkeeper has earned the starting job for the California club. Lyon, 25, has been in excellent form for Orange County this campaign, playing every minute in goal and recording two clean sheets. His shot-stopping is as sharp as ever, having been nominated for USL Save Of The Week twice in eight matches. S2 striker Irvin Parra will likely be the only player from last year’s roster who will face off against his former teammate.
S2 will be without several key starters this weekend. Central midfielder Ray Saari is suspended for the match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season against OKC FC earlier in the week. A total of five players -- Sam Rogers, Shandon Hopeau, Felix Chenkam, Rodrigue Ele and Denso Ulysse -- will be absent as a result of their participation in the USSDA playoffs with the Sounders Academy U-18s. And with the First Team playing the night after down in Portland, OR, it is unlikely that many players will be available to S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson. Expect some fresh-faced Academy prospects to round out the roster down in Orange County.
The Starting XI for Saturday night’s match will likely be the oldest team to take the field for S2 this season. Over 30% of minutes played on S2 this season have been given to players aged 21 and under, but with a majority of these young players suiting up for the Academy this weekend, the lineup for the match against OCSC will be filled with more experienced players. Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson will likely shuffle the deck and hand significant minutes to center back Riley Grant and winger Charles Renken, with the offensive burden falling on David Olsen and Parra.