TUCSON, Ariz. — The Seattle Sounders opened their 2018 MLS preseason friendlies with a 2-1 win over the rival Portland Timbers on Saturday night behind goals from Cristian Roldan and Handwalla Bwana. Roldan put the Sounders in front on nine minutes when he cleaned up a saved Harry Shipp shot and tapped in the rebound from point blank. After a Diego Valeri header leveled the match in the 25th minute, 2018 Homegrown signee Bwana scored his second goal in as many preseason games when he coolly slotted home a pass from Zach Mathers to put Seattle ahead for good.
Head Coach Brian Schmetzer went with mostly First Team players and starters for the first 60 minutes before making a wholesale change and bringing on 11 new players, most of whom were S2, Academy or guest players, at the hour mark.
Schmetzer opted to employ a 4-4-2 diamond formation for his first group, a change from his traditional 4-2-3-1 he’s used since taking over in summer 2016. The new look gave the Sounders a chance to utilize two forwards in Jordan Morris and Will Bruin while still allowing Nicolás Lodiero to roam underneath. Seattle found plenty open pockets of space and exploited them for most of the evening.
Morris the menace
Fresh off a return from the United States national team, where he started in a scoreless friendly draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morris ran riot behind the Timbers defense, breaking lines and causing nightmares for a back four that struggled to contain his speed. He was threatening all evening, and even when he didn’t receive a ball, he consistently drew defenders out of position and opened space elsewhere for his teammates.
Lodeiro’s attacking impetus
Lodeiro looked in midseason form all evening, slotting ball after ball into the runs of Morris and Bruin that unbalanced the Timbers’ defensive shape. Playing as a No. 10 with twice as many options in front of him as normal, he continually knifed through dangerous passes and was instrumental in nearly every good Seattle scoring chance.
Bwana scores again
It’s been quite the preseason so far for the 18-year-old Bwana, who scored in his second straight game. Playing alongside a mostly reserve Sounders team when he entered, he stood out with his deft moves around the box and creativity to take on defenders, nearly recording a brace after a nifty move to get free for a shot.
Young kids take center stage
The final half hour was a showcase of younger Sounders talent, most notable Academy players Khai Brisco (17 years old), Dylan Teves (17) and Ray Serrano (15), all of whom held their own against their much older counterparts. Getting teenagers as much professional experience as possible is part of Seattle’s plan for player development, and it was on full display on Saturday.