New Sounders FC 2 captain Ray Saari is "beyond excited" to take the field at Cheney Stadium on Friday / Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
TACOMA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders FC 2 will enter a new era when it steps onto the field at Cheney Stadium on Friday night as the club makes Tacoma its new home for the 2018 season, and beyond.
That the opening game of the 2018 USL regular season for S2 comes against Cascadia rival the Portland Timbers 2 brings an added intensity for the contest (10 p.m. ET | Match Center), but so does the knowledge that there will likely be a sellout crowd on hand to welcome the club to its new home, located 37 miles south of Seattle.
With S2 aiming to get its new season off to a winning start, the new environment drew rave reviews from the squad and coaching staff at Wednesday’s media day.
“We’ve come here for training today and the set-up is amazing,” said new S2 Head Coach John Hutchinson. “The changing room is fantastic for the players. To have a grass field is, you saw the boys’ excitement beforehand. The ground is in much better condition than I expected it to be in. We’re just ready for Friday night to roll around and get started.”
“The layout and the field here has impressed me a lot,” added S2 captain Ray Saari. “Coming out here and seeing the work that the grounds crew has put in has really impressed me. I’m beyond excited to play here on Friday.”
Image courtesy Seattle Sounders FC 2
S2 has held the upper hand on T2 over the course of the past three seasons, winning all three meetings in 2017 and 10 of 11 overall since the clubs joined the USL prior to the 2015 season. Looking to help continue that is veteran midfielder David Estrada, who joined S2 this week after playing for the past two seasons in the USL with the Charlotte Independence.
The 30-year-old previously played for the Sounders in Major League Soccer, making 44 of his 54 appearances in the top flight for Seattle. He’s now the old head in the room for the top young players coming into S2’s ranks, but Estrada remembers fondly what it was like when he broke into MLS with Seattle eight years ago.
“When I first got here I didn’t realize how big this team was,” said Estrada. “I think that’s one thing that I hope these S2 players learn about this organization, that the fans make this organization what it is. That’s one of the things that anywhere where I went, I remembered the impact the fans had on this team.”
While Estrada is looking forward to pulling on the Emerald green jersey again, Hutchinson is eager for his first game as S2 Head Coach where his side will look to take its first step toward a return to the postseason.
“It’s just exciting,” said Hutchinson. “It’s exciting to have such a young team that’s ready to have a go at this league and see how many games we can get maximum points from. I’m just excited to be here.”