TUKWILA, Wash. - An Elliot Havens goal in the 32nd minute was all the Sounders FC Pre-Academy U15 needed to defeat the HPFC U18 Thursday night at Starfire Sports Complex. Despite the narrow 1-0 final score, the ball and game was dominated by the Sounders as they outshot HPFC 21-8, including an 8-3 shot on goal advantage.
The Sounders relentlessly attacked the goal in the first half, but had a hard time finishing. Midfielder Abdi Abdullah of Seattle provided much of the pressure early, sending a number of quality crosses from the left side that weren’t converted, as well as two shots on goal in the first 20 minutes that were stopped by the HPFC keeper. The opposing keeper was very solid—in the 8th minute, the Sounders came inches from scoring on a header off of a free kick, but saw the shot punched over the crossbar by the keeper. Just minutes later, the Sounders’ Shane Gomez had an open look from the top of the penalty box that just barely missed left.
After a number of solid opportunities that missed, the game’s lone scoring play came when Gomez found Havens, a native of Olympia, amidst a group of defenders right in front of the goal, and Havens was able to squeak it into the corner of the goal.
“The guys have improved so much,” said Coach Billy Crook, who had two stints with the Sounders as a player in the NASL and APSL days. “They just started games, so we’re seeing the practice paying off. The ball handling and technical skills look great, so now our goal is to get them united as a team. These guys are from all over the state, so it’s going to take time to get them playing together.”
HPFC U18 is a team based locally in Highline that also trains at Starfire. Despite their age and size advantage, they were outplayed on both sides of the field by the quicker and more precise Sounders.
The shutout for the Sounders defense was highlighted by a spectacular save in the 70th minute by second-half keeper Evan Munn, where he fully extended upwards to pop what would have been a sure-goal over the top of crossbar.
The win continues what has been a good run for the Sounders Pre-Academy. After going 4-0 in Dallas at the Generation Adidas Cup from July 25-31, they’ve come home and won 3 of their last 4 games at Starfire. Coach Crook is happy with what he’s seen, but still is looking to improve.
“They’ve really had some great glimpses, and if they can get more consistent in games they’ll be dynamite.”