Finals Week provides building blocks for 2013/14 season

Group Play saw defeats to an old rival Vancouver Whitecaps, eventual third-place Alberston FC and U-18 winners New York Red Bulls. Finals Week ended with a loss to the New England Revolution in the seventh place match.

After a season competing with Vancouver for first in the division and the USSDA Playoffs, the Seattle Sounders Academy U-18s are done with their 49-week marathon.

Finals Week did not see the desired results, but over the season talents developed and emerged while competing against the best youth players in the nation. Finishing eighth place puts the Sounders Academy in the top 10% for results on the year, but the purpose of the Academy is to develop young players into future men and pros.

“When you get into an event like that, where everybody is good and everybody is prepared it’s sometimes a little bit of luck,” Academy Head Coach Dick McCormick said. “The first game in events like that is absolutely crucial to get points so you can control your own destiny.”

David Olsen scored in the Finals Week opener to put the team even with the Whitecaps but Vancouver would push past Seattle. Now behind the eight-ball the Sounders Academy faced what became a must-win against Albertson SC.

Seattle fell behind early and, with the match being called tight, a couple players were ejected. The loss to Albertson put the Sounders out of a spot in the Championship, but did free three players to play for the Sounders FC Reserves on Sunday. New York put forward the performance expected from a national Champion and the Revolution match had those few key player losses. That eighth place match saw Jordan Morris score in his final match of the Sounders Academy season.

“From one game to the next things can be completely different as far as refereeing or the environment goes, and when you’re playing good players hopefully you pick-up something playing against them,” McCormick explained. “Hopefully that’s the lesson.”

The two other losses to MLS Academies from the Northeast point out another advantage to Finals Week. Coaches and players here in the Seattle area do not have the density of Academies and quality players that an LA, New York or other larger metro areas do. Events like the Playoffs and Finals Week give coaches and players an opportunity to interact with other people at the top of their games.

Even while competing on the fields, the importance of networking can not be ignored.

Meeting with other coaching staffs to talk about what they are doing to maximize their efforts helps all sides. The Academies are about more than results. It is about advancing game abilities and developing boys into men. Wins help that and the 2013/14 season looks bright already.

Just three weeks from now the Sounders Academy teams will start practice for the next season. At the U-18 level five starters will return. A few others were regularly in the gameday 18 and come back for another year in Rave Green. Several players in the younger USSDA U-16s are also returning at that level as they push not just for wins, but to look towards a feature in college and maybe as a pro.

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