After a strong performance in the USSDA Playoffs, the Sounders Academy U-18s qualified for National Finals Week. During that week the club will play three matches in a Group Stage where the winner advances to the Championship. Their opponents are the Northwest Division Champions Vancouver Whitecaps, Albertson SC and New York Red Bulls.
Led by Jordan Morris, the nation’s best U-18 player, the high-powered offense also features a frequent finisher in David Olsen. While the team is defined by its attack, it has a defense that must also come through.
“We’ll get into a defensive struggle at some point. It’s one of those things, you’ve got to defend well,” Academy Coach Dick McCormick told SoundersFC.com this week. “We feel we’re defending at a pretty high level right now and not giving up many chances.”
On those chances that are created against the team they have two high quality keepers to save them. Connor Adkisson was the West’s best keeper in the age group and Paul Christensen came back from the U.S. U-17 training to challenge for starting time.
In the midfield two names familiar to NASL Sounders fans with Ike Crook and Duncan McCormick. Both have fathers on the coaching staff. But the team isn’t just stars. It is a group that knows there role and play soccer.
“It’s exciting for them. They’ve come together really well. There’s good team chemistry. It’s a group that knows their roles within the team really well,” McCormick said. “Right now it’s a good little group and we’re excited about what they’ve done.”
Throughout the reserve season Morris, Henry Wingo, Cody Crook and Jacob Houser have all played against even tougher competition than in the USSDA system. Being tested against the best of the Academy system in what are nearly must win matches each evening will be a different challenge.
The Academy U-18s will play its first game on Sunday against the familiar Vancouver Whitecaps. Tuesday they play Albertson SC and Sunday they wrap up against New York Red Bulls. Follow @SoundersAcademy for updates on their quest for the Championship.
That first match against the Whitecaps features two of the top offenses in the league. The most recent match ended with a Sounders Academy loss of 1-nil, but the first meeting between the two sides ended in a 4-2 win at Starfire. Coach McCormick says that goals should be expected in that contest.
Every team will be in the heat of Houston with the Championship Game taking place at the Houston Dynamo home stadium of BBVA Compass Stadium.