Seattle Sounders FC’s bye week actually included two matches over a four-day period. And while neither counts in the MLS standings, they could prove meaningful over the long season ahead.
On Saturday, Sounders 2 made its USL debut with a 4-2 win over Sacramento. And on Tuesday, the Sounders first team tied 2-2 in a friendly with Club Tijuana.
Because of liberal substitution rules, 17 players appeared for S2, and 18 took the pitch against the Mexican club. Oniel Fisher, Andres Correa, Jimmy Ockford, Darwin Jones of Des Moines, Damion Lowe and Victor Mansaray of Fife made their first-team debuts. Fisher, Ockford, Lowe, Mansaray, Jones, Dylan Remick, former Washington Huskies midfielder Cristian Roldan and Aaron Kovar of Seattle appeared in both matches.
Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid watched S2 from the stands and the friendly from the bench. Afterward, he critiqued the kids.
“Oniel Fisher continued to play well. He’s very steady,” Schmid said. “Dylan Remick is getting back to the form that he had at the beginning of last year when he played very well for us. Damion Lowe and Jimmy Ockford … had a very good game with S2 over the weekend, and those guys are definitely coming along and making strides. Cristian Roldan continues to grow all the time for us. I think Kovar had a good game until his legs got to him a little bit and got fatigued. … And Darwin Jones is a guy who’s still coming. I think it’s taken him a while to adjust to the speed of play, making decisions a little bit earlier. But he had a couple of good moments.”
Still, most of those guys will continue to make their progress — and their mistakes — with S2. That’s largely why the club was created.
But Schmid’s praise of Remick could have real relevance. At this time last season, Remick was a first-team starter and projected as eventual heir to Leo Gonzalez’s left back spot. Then came injury, followed by loss of confidence, followed by loss of minutes. By 2015 training camp, newcomer Andres Correa was presumed to be Gonzalez’s replacement in waiting. Maybe it’s time to rethink that yet again.
In the shorter term there could be real relevance in Fisher getting top billing from Schmid, especially on top of the previous praise he received following the friendly.
Fisher, 23, became a Sounder as the 40th overall pick in the SuperDraft. He played two seasons at the University of New Mexico and already has played for the Jamaican national team. However, he drew little preseason attention before making his first-team debut as the starting right back against Tijuana.
Indications are that veteran right back Tyrone Means (hamstring) could be ready for full duty Saturday when the Sounders return to league play at FC Dallas. But if not, Fisher suddenly looms as a potential replacement. “Steady” is a meaningful compliment for a short-term defensive replacement.
Finally, there is the continued progress of Roldan, the Sounders’ top pick in this SuperDraft, and Kovar, the second-year homegrown player. Roldan has played in both MLS games of his rookie season, while Kovar appeared in one and seemed to make a case for more by assisting both Seattle goals against Tijuana.