The Orange County Blues FC are riding high, but their latest test is nearly upon them: a tough Pacific Northwest road trip with two games in three days. First up is the Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Friday, and the hosts sit above the Blues in the standings, although the Blues have two games in hand.
In order to find out about the new USL team, we welcome back our old friend Dave Clark of SB Nation Sounders blog Sounder At Heart to get the lowdown. Thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Sounder At Heart:
1. Most of the MLS-owned teams getting off the ground this season have struggled out of the gate. Sounders 2 are not one of those teams. Why are they off to such a good start?
There's a lot of MLS experience on the team. Two direct signings are huge for that - CDM Amadou Sanyang is a former Sounder and TFC player who even though only 23 is already in his 9th pro year and CM/RM Sam Garza is the oldest player on the roster at 25 and spent four seasons in MLS with the Earthquakes. There are also three MLS contractees with two or more appearances (Damion Lowe, Jimmy Ockford, Aaron Kovar) and HGPs Darwin Jones and Victor Mansaray are fringe MLS talents as well. That's a good stockpile of kids that know what it is to be a pro. Rather than just a bunch of Academy fill-ins and failed draft picks S2 has quality talent that will win games while improving.
2. I'm intrigued by Andy Craven. He came out of college and if I recall correctly signed a pro deal with MLS ahead of the SuperDraft, only to go unselected until the 3rd round by the Sounders. They signed him to the USL team. He's looked pretty good so far for S2, so is he a player who's found his level, or do you think he could play his way into an MLS contract (again)?
Craven is showing his speed, physicality and effort quite well. What will determine if he takes the step up to MLS is if he can have greater consistency in his first touch, while improving his passing. He's an intriguing talent that will almost certainly be in MLS in 2016, especially if he continues putting up numbers.
3. Who are some other notable players Blues fans should be watching for on Friday?
Pablo Rossi - He may or may not start, but every time he stands over the ball on a free kick he has the opportunity to score. His set-piece play is as good as any player I've seen in MLS. Yes, any player in the history of the league.
Jones - Imagine that Obafemi Martins was from Seattle, came up through American soccer and played at college. That's Darwin Jones. He's compact, fast, with a potent shot and needs a lot of work on his touch. He's thrilling to watch.
Giuliano Frano - The central midfielder tends to be the more forward of the CMs, but is more a defender than a distributor. He will also flash up and harass the opposing defense when they have the ball, allowing the attacking players for Seattle to get back. It looks really odd, but he does it often enough it is clearly part of the plan.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for S2 vs. Blues?
3-2 - The attack is really good. It's exciting, nimble and quick on the counter. The defense is bound to give up a goal, probably two.
If you would like to read my answers to Dave's questions, then head on over to this page.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!