When Sounders 2 began a new season at Starfire Sports Stadium on Friday, it did so in a 4-3-3 formation.
That’s the alignment the Seattle Sounders first team also incorporated this season — and that’s no coincidence.
“It’s best for us if we’re mimicking whatever the first team is doing,” S2 coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “… At the end of the day, the goal of S2 players is to get to the first team. That helps them be better prepared.”
The door actually swings both ways. Yes, some S2 players will graduate to the first team — or even just fill in on emergency duty. But at least as regularly, first-team reserves will drop down to get game minutes. Among the Friday starters were first-teamers such as Charlie Lyon, Oniel Fisher, Dylan Remick, Michael Farfan, Nathan Sturgis, Darwin Jones, Andy Craven and Aaron Kovar.
So a single formation makes sense for everyone.
And when it comes to the 4-3-3 look, first-team coach Sigi Schmid thinks it is also the right fit for the Sounders FC academy teams.
“I always liked (young players) to play with three up front,” he said. “I did that when I first took over a youth team in the mid-‘70s just because I wanted to see my guys 1-v-1. I wanted to see what they could do, I wanted them to get comfortable taking people on, I wanted to get them to be comfortable defending one against one.”
Sounders 2 went 13-12-3 in its inaugural season before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. They dropped their 2016 opener, 1-0, to the Sacramento Republic on Friday. But as a practical matter, the club exists to turn USL talent into MLS talent.
This S2 roster includes MLS SuperDraft picks Emir Alihodzic, Zach Mathers and Michael Nelson, as well as homegrown Jordan Schweitzer.
“We do want to win because we feel winning is part of a player’s development,” Hendrickson said. “It helps them develop as far as psychologically, attitude. If you’re getting beat 5-0 every game, it’s kind of discouraging. So we are going to try and win games. But the main focus is to develop these players.”
While the club values individual development over team standings, the players say there is no difference to them. The things they must do in a game to impress the front office are the same things they must do to beat the guys in the other jerseys.
“We still want to win games,” Schweitzer said. “That’s our job. Obviously at any level you want to continue to develop and grow as a player, but nothing changes. It’s about winning games.”
S2 returns to action Wednesday when Arizona United SC visits.
FIRST TEAM’S BREAK
The first-team Sounders concluded bye-week training Friday. Now they will enjoy three days off before returning to Starfire on Tuesday to prepare for their return to MLS play April 2, when the Montreal Impact visits.
“We accomplished what we wanted to do in terms of giving the guys a little bit of work on Tuesday through Friday,” Schmid said. “We’re giving them time off now — allow them to regenerate a little bit, not only physically but mentally. Just get away. We know what lies ahead.”