The last time the Sounders FC added a winger from North London, things turned out pretty good.
And while they may not be expecting 2012 Supplemental Draft pick Jason Banton to be Steve Zakuani, the two former Arsenal youth prospects have very similar styles on the field.
“I’ve seen a few videos of Steve and I play quite similar,” Banton said after his first training session with the Sounders FC on Saturday. “Maybe it's the North London upbringing.”
Banton and Zakuani took very different paths to Major League Soccer. Zakuani went to the University of Akron where he played two seasons for the Zips before being selected first overall by the Sounders FC in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Banton, meanwhile, played his first match as a professional on loan from Leicester City of the Championship to League Two side Burton Albion. Then he came to the MLS Combine, where many coaches around the league were seeing him for the first time.
Asked to describe his game, Banton opted for just one word – stylish.
Although he impressed with his explosiveness and speed on the wing at the Combine, the 19-year-old former England U17 international found himself without a team after the MLS SuperDraft on January 12. That left him there for the taking when the Sounders picked 34th in the Supplemental Draft last Tuesday and after the weather in Seattle let up, Banton joined the team in training camp.
While many may have taken the draft slot as a snub, Banton is more interested in impressing the club that did select him in Seattle.
“It was a bit surprising, but at the end of the day, I’m just glad to get the opportunity to come to Seattle,” he said. “(Draft position) doesn’t mean anything. You still have to come to club and work hard. I'm just glad to get the opportunity to come to Seattle.”
In Seattle, he will have a difficult path to find playing time in MLS matches. As a winger, he would join a deep core that includes Zakuani, 2011 MLS Newcomer of the Year Mauro Rosales, World Cup veteran Alvaro Fernandez, rising talent Lamar Neagle and newcomer Christian Siveæk, along with versatile veterans Roger Levesque and David Estrada.
However, if he is able to find himself on the roster, it may help open the pathway between England and MLS. Banton has already had friends and former teammates ask him about the process.
“There are a few that told me they want to come out here, so don’t be surprised to see a few English lads come over,” he smiled without a hint of trepidation.
Banton will look to make his training debut on Monday when the Sounders return to training at Starfire.