When Xander Bailey started playing soccer at four years old, he had no idea that one day he might suit up for his favorite club. Now, five years after he first saw Sounders FC play and fell in love with Rave Green and Sounder Blue, he joined the team in training on Friday as Seattle prepares to face Tottenham Hotspur in a friendly on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
A native of West Virginia, Bailey was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin at training on Friday after the club announced the 18-year-old’s signing on Wednesday. An attacking midfielder or wide midfielder, Bailey comes to the Sounders by way of Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“I’m really blessed to be here and have the opportunity to play with players like this, especially Dempsey and Yedlin – players that are on the national team,” said Bailey. “I was very excited. Especially coming out here and playing … and doing what I love to do. It’s a great time.”
Bailey began his career with the East River Raptors in 2004 before joining New River United in 2006, where he played four years. He recently played for the King's Warriors and West Virginia Raptors and now plays for the King's Warriors PDL reserve team.
“He’s a good player. He’s skillful. I thought he came in and did well. It was fun for him to come out and for us to interact with him,” Dempsey said. “Anytime you can be a part of something like Make-A-Wish it’s pretty special.”
On Friday, Bailey took part in training with the Sounders and started a sequence that included touches from Dempsey before Obafemi Martins scored. All the while, Bailey was wearing a smile that could be seen throughout Sounders FC’s Starfire training complex, as he and his family took in the moment.
“He was good. He was simple when he needed to be, which was good,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We’ll see which is the best situation and most appropriate place for him to play on Saturday.”
Bailey relished the chance to train with his favorite club, an opportunity he says he won’t soon forget.
“It’s pretty crazy. You can tell their level of play is just way up there. Definitely a really good time out there playing with them,” he grinned. “It’s been a wild experience.”