Sounders FC 2 (9-16-4, 31 points) returns to league play after a two-week break with an away fixture against Tulsa Roughnecks FC (13-13-4, 43 points) on Saturday, October 7 (5:00 p.m. PT, live-stream on SoundersFC.com). The Rave Green enter the match well-rested and healthy, having not played a competitive match since September 20, and will look to kick-start their final road trip of the season with a win over Tulsa.
In the prior meeting between these two sides this season, a 1-0 S2 loss at home, the hosts dominated the match and carved out quality chances but paid for their profligacy, surrendering a set-piece goal against the run-of-play in the 72nd minute. While the group was unable to pick up points, the number of chances they generated – as well as the way they controlled the midfield – should leave the team bullish about picking up a win on the road.
Tulsa, an affiliate of the Chicago Fire, will line-up in their battle-tested 4-2-3-1 formation. The two holding midfielders, most likely Paris Gee and Jonathon Levin, will look to keep possession and set the tempo of the match, working the ball from side-to-side with their metronomic passing. The purpose of this possession is to spread out the opposing defense, creating 1v1 situations on the flanks for their inverted wingers, Joey Calistri and Joaquin Rivas. The pair have combined for 14 goals, eight assists and 60 chances created this season, accounting for the bulk of the squad’s offensive output.
With all of that in mind, S2 will have to like their chances in this matchup. Since both teams will roll out a 4-2-3-1, the match will be decided by individual battles and, more importantly, which team can nullify the other’s strengths.
For S2, this means sound 1v1 defending in the wide channel, a near certainty with the likes of Denso Ulysse and Steve Whyte manning the flanks. They’ll also have to remain disciplined defensively to avoid getting pulled out of position by Tulsa’s midfield trio. And with Francisco Narbon and Ray Saari – two incredibly intelligent players – lining up in the double-pivot, the Rave Green should be able to maintain their team shape.
Here are three storylines to watch.
Tulsa tends to push its full backs high up the pitch, providing constant overlapping options, to create 1v1 scenarios for Calistri and Rivas. But this leaves acres of space behind them, and S2 will look to hit those gaps with their own pacey wide players. When S2 wins the ball back, most likely through Narbon or Saari, look for them to quickly release the wingers, like Shandon Hopeau, David Olsen, Guy Edoa or even Seyi Adekoya, into space for counter-attacks. Once they break down the flanks, the Roughnecks holding midfielders will be forced to choose between sliding across to defend them, which leaves a massive hole in the middle of the final third, or staying central and ceding the wide channels.
Much like the Roughnecks, S2 likes to push its outside backs high up the pitch to provide overlapping options. When this happens, the wide midfielders tend to drift inside, overloading the central area. Leading goalscorer Zach Mathers, who likes to drift out wide in these scenarios, will cause constant problems for the hosts with his off-the-ball movement. If one of the defensive midfielders tracks him out to the flanks, this will create a numerical advantage in the middle for the Rave Green. But if they allow him to float out wide, he’ll have time and space to whip in a dangerous cross, supplying the type of service that Felix Chenkam thrives on.
“For us, it’s just a matter of going out and finishing the season strong. We’d like to be in a different position, as far as playoff consideration goes, but as of late we’ve been playing very good football. We’ve just come up short on the offensive side of things -- the attacking part hasn’t been of the quality that we expect, but that’s stuff we can work on.” -- S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson