The Sounders FC Academy has a special player in center back Jalen Markey.
His four call-ups to US U18 National Team camp this year are testament to that, as the 17-year-old O’Dea High School senior’s prowess on defense has taken him to California, Florida, Portugal and, most recently, the Netherlands to represent his country.
“Jalen’s been a known commodity for four or five years. He’s really come into his own in the last year,” Sounders FC director of youth development Darren Sawatzky said. “He has the physical pieces and his soccer gets better every day. He’s done well when he’s gone into camp and they keep bringing him back, so that’s a positive.”
Markey played in two of the four matches that the U18s played in the Netherlands, highlighted by a 45-minute stint in a 2-0 win over Feyenoord’s U19 team, with both goals coming in the second half when Markey was on the field.
In between games, the U18s trained twice a day and did some sight-seeing in Holland, but the primary focus was on getting the players experience playing together against European teams.
“It was pretty exciting. I think it was the best one I’ve gotten so far,” said Markey, who is in his final season with the Sounders FC Academy before heading to Syracuse University next summer. “It was a really good feeling.”
For all of his talents at center back, though, the 6-foot-2 Markey may be trying out a new position this year. In the last year, he has filled in at right back at U18 camp when injuries opened up time at the position, but this time around the Sounders FC Academy is planning to use him in the midfield.
It’s an adjustment that has Markey excited to learn a new position, even as he knows that the end goal is to make him a better center back.
“When you’re in the midfield, you’re seeing 360-degrees in a game. As a center back, a lot of the time it’s 180-degrees because the game is in front of you,” Sawatzky said. “It helps his development and spatial ability by having to play at 360-degrees. We know that he can play center back, but we want him to develop and part of the Academy is making sure all of the pieces are there when they move to the next level.”
The Sounders FC Academy season kicked off on September 8. They will play their fourth game of the season on October 6 at Starfire against Arsenal FC from California, followed by a meeting with Real So Cal on October 7.