The United States Youth National Team call-ups just keep coming for Sounders Academy players.
Since October, 10 players from the Sounders youth system have represented the Stars & Stripes for their respective age groups, including the trio of young prospects – Homegrowns Danny Leyva and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, as well as U-19 midfielder Ethan Dobbelaere – who competed in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“It’s another boost for the program, getting multiple players now at each age group,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “I think it shows a level of consistency. Our players know that if they continue to work in Seattle on their individual development, they have a great chance to get called up to the national team.”
Prior to the World Cup, Academy standouts Angel Martinez, Josh Hardin and Reed Baker-Whiting traveled to Poland with the U-15 national team to participate in the UEFA Development Tournament. The trio received positive reviews from the U.S. coaching staff as they went toe-to-toe with their counterparts from Iceland, Poland and Russia.
“I think the good news is all three of them have been away with us to Europe,” noted Nicholls. “So, it wasn’t their first European experience, which we hope helped them. They played some really unique opponents and it was a really good learning experience.”
The U-17s experienced a disappointing run at the World Cup, as they failed to advance to the knockout rounds from a group that featured Senegal, Japan and Netherlands.
After the World Cup, four more Sounders players were called up to the U-16 and U-17 national teams for the 2019 Nike Friendlies, where they squared off against Turkey and the Dutch U-16s. Midfielder Sota Kitahara and center back Eric Kinzner represented the U-16s, while defender Antino Lopez and right back Bryson Hankins played for the U-17s.
Lopez, who can also operate as a No. 6, picked up two starts for the young Yanks.
An intelligent box-to-box midfielder who’s also played outside back with the Academy and Defiance, Kitahara put in several sterling displays, scoring one goal and setting up another in their dramatic 3-3 comeback draw against the Netherlands. He also scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 victory over the U.S. U-17s.
Kinzner, a ball-playing center back, tallied a pair of secondary assists in the 3-2 win over Turkey to secure the Nike Friendlies title.
With the year coming to a close, expect another banner year of international call-ups for Sounders Academy standouts.