All around the Puget Sound, young soccer players picture themselves playing for the Sounders FC.
On Thursday in Bradenton, Florida, Paul Christensen found himself one step removed from that dream when he manned the net for the US U17 National Team against the Sounders FC in a preseason game for Seattle.
The Woodinville, Washington, native and Sounders FC Academy product played the first of two 35-minute halves in Seattle’s 3-0 win over the U17 team.
“It was an exciting experience,” he said. “It was our second game against an MLS team, so it was a little more comfortable, but it was more exciting playing against guys that I’ve seen on TV and that I’ve watched play the last few years.”
While Christensen, 15, allowed all three goals in a 3-0 win for the Sounders, he asserted his authority early in the match and drew praise from the coaching staff after the match.
“He did really well early on with the crosses, but I don’t think he could do a lot on the goals,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He had a good presence about him, which is something I like to see in goalkeepers.”
Christensen is in Bradenton with the US U17 Residency Program. He moved from Woodinville last summer to join the elite level residency program and has not looked back, suiting up regularly against the likes of Mexico, France and Brazil.
And while games against the best youth players from around the world have been good barometers for his level of play, opportunities to play against professionals several years his senior have given him a better perspective on where he needs to continue to grow to the level he hopes to reach.
Christensen may have been helped, even if only slightly, by facing the Columbus Crew on Sunday. With that game in his pocket, he was better equipped to handle the speed of the game at the MLS level, even if it was a team that didn’t include the club’s primary starters.
“It’s been great experiences and two great games. They help me because you don’t see this kind of movement. The shots are better placed and there are a lot more things to think about,” he said. “You can’t focus on just one thing. You have to be talking to your team and keep them together.”
The results against the MLS sides may have left something to be desired, but Christensen is upbeat about the experience.
“We had a few let-downs, but that’s to be expected when we’re playing a high level team like that. It’s nothing to be disappointed about. We gave a good effort and worked hard out there,” he said. “It makes you want to be on the other side next time. But that’s what I love about it. It’s a challenge.”