The Sounders and Timbers renewed acquaintances on a cool February night in Tucson, and while the Sounders gave up a late goal to fall to their rivals 2-1, there were some very promising things to take away from the game.
First, the Sounders started a fully reserve lineup, and went toe to toe with what was basically a first choice Timbers squad. Indeed, the Sounders jumped out to a 1-0 lead off a header from Handwalla Bwana, assisted by fellow Sounders homegrown Marlon Vargas.
Vargas was a near revelation, not only notching the assist, but generally being tidy in possession and springing several attacks, which belied his age (18). The original plan was to take him off at halftime, but he played so well that Brian Schmetzer said he earned additional time.
Bwana, in addition to scoring the goal, consistently took on defenders and generally looked dangerous. He credited his aggressiveness to the Sounders new system, which he said encourages direct attack from the wingers. Given the Sounders attacking options, games like this will surely keep him on the coaches’ radar.
Another piece of notable news was Henry Wingo at right back. The Sounders attempted to play him at the position two years ago, but appeared to give up after a couple of attempts. Against the Timbers first team, he played a solid game and positive in attack (and in fact should have had as assist).
Harry Shipp was also impressed with the performance of the young players, noting Vargas and Danny Leyva, the latter whom he paired with in the midfield. Beyond that, it was a performance that raises a few interesting questions. Is the Right Back Wingo experiment back on? Is Vargas a candidate for a 1st team position? What is going on with Roman Torres, who remained in Seattle? Schmetzer said after the game that the center back’s absence was merely down to the normal preseason shuffle of players, and that he’ll rejoin the team in Seattle. But Jonathan Campbell put in a solid shift, and there are reports that other teams are interested in the Panamanian’s talents. We shall see.
So that’s it for the game from the Sounders’ perspective. The team finishes up the Arizona phase of preseason against Dallas on Saturday at 10:00 am local time. The starters will be back on the field.