Sean Okoli chases the ball (photo by Chris Coulter, SoundersPhotos.com)
Tacoma, WA – In the Sounders FC U-23 inaugural PDL home match, the Sounders tied the Victoria highlanders 0-0. The Sounders FC U-23 are inching closer and closer to a finished product; but they’re not there yet. On Friday night, the Sounders U-23 tied the Victoria Highlanders for the 2nd time in two weeks.
The Sounders U-23 were able to generate multiple scoring chances but couldn’t convert. Each game, the Sounders U-23 have added new players to the roster. With new players like Sean Okoli and Aodhan Quinn, the Sounders looked dangerous, but it was evident that the gelling process is not complete.
Friday night was the first chance for former Sounders Academy forwards, Sean Okoli and Darwin Jones partner for Sounders U-23. Jones and Okoli were dangerous in the first half, with each player spurning chances after getting behind the Victoria defense.
The Sounders got the first chance for a break though. In the 6th minute, Darwin Jones was played in for a one on one chance with Victoria goalkeeper, Elliot Mitrou. Jones had plenty of time to make a decision, but chose to shoot rather than take it past the goalkeeper who was flat footed, and Mitrou made the save with his shin.
Victoria came back to earn a corner in the 9th minute on a decent crossing opportunity that was headed out of the six yard box by Taylor Peay. The ball stayed in the Sounders U-23 end until a quality over head volley from Jaren Stephens forced Sounders keeper, Doug Herrick, into his first save of the match.
A few minutes later, the Highlanders, starting to maintain possession earned a chance to look up and try a long shot. Ashley Burbeary lined up a long look from 25 yards out and nearly scored. His shot glanced off of the outside of the upper V and out of play.
In the 21st minute, the Sounders U-23 were able to earn a corner off the back of Sean Okoli's hard pressuring. On the Sean Morris corner to the back post, about 12 yards from goal, Fernando Monge was waiting. The UCLA product turned a beautiful volley with his left foot, waist high, toward the bottom corner of the goal. Mitrou was able to react quickly and make the save.
DeAndre Yedlin will be a pain in outside backs’ sides all summer long. In the 26th minute he breezed past Liam Davis and sent a ball to the back post for Sean Okoli. The Wake Forrest forward rose well but headed the ball just over the bar.
Akron midfielder, Aodhan Quinn, may have been the man of the match. He looked comfortable all first half, pulling the strings for the Sounders. In the 43rd minute he had a chance to get forward as well and nearly snuck a long shot into the back post. The low drive skimmed a yard outside the far post.
Two minutes later, Quinn, he nearly set up a Sounders goal for his teammates. He picked up possession in the attacking third and quickly found Sean Okoli in space. Okoli took a touch and blazed his shot outside the far post.
The sides ended the first half scoreless. In an attempt to spark a goal for the Sounders, Head Coach, Darren Sawatzky, subbed on Liam Kelley for Darwin Jones to start the 2nd half.
The Sounders nearly started the 2nd half with a quick goal. Sean Okoli picked up a knock down and saw some daylight in front of goal, but was quickly closed down and his shot, blocked.
The Sounders were blessed with some good fortune in the 55th minute and nearly made good use of it. As the Sounders went towards goal, a Victoria midfielder ran straight into the center referee. Space opened for the Sounders and Aodhan Quinn reacted with a quick shot. The effort was saved by Mitrou in the bottom corner of the goal.
With the Sounders starting to dominate possession and chances, Victoria nearly sprung a goal against the run of play. Jared Stephens, of Victoria, found himself behind the defense after beating the offside trap. Doug Herrick timed his challenge perfectly and snuffed out the chance.
Nearly all of the dangerous chances created by Victoria were on set pieces. In the 72nd minute, a free kick from 10 yards outside the 18 yard box forced Herrick again to make a good read and smart save.
In the 76th minute, the Sounders U-23 might have found the break though, if not for the back of Kalem Scott. Liam Kelley read a long throw in and set a volley toward the corner of the goal. On the way it was blocked off the back of Scott and eventually cleared out of danger.
The final whistle came and neither team has scored. The point gives the sounders five from their first four games. Victoria stands with three points after five games. The Sounders U-23 sit in the middle of the NW Division.
The next match for the Sounders FC U-23 is at historic, Cheney Stadium on May 30th. The Sounders U-23 will take on Cascadian rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps at 6pm. The Sounders Women will also be signing autographs before the match from 5pm-6pm. Tickets are available at SoundersU23.com.
Sounders FC U-23 - GK-Herrick, 3-Lee, 5-Peay (59th-15-Arena), 6-Brundage, 20-Yedlin, 13-McCluskey, 17-Morris, 10-Monge, 8-Aodhan (67th-26-Gray), 11-Jones (45th 19-Kelley), 23-Okoli (88th-9-Dipascuale)
Victoria Highlanders FC - GK-Mitrou, 13-Hughes, 18-Davis, 2-Scott, 8-Eng, 16-Amani, 9-Mehrassa (62nd-12-Plavsic), 10-Burbeary (65th-23-Ewashko), 19-Stephens, 11-Gorman (45th-20-Mallette(88th-21-Ravenhill)), 17-Hughes