The Seattle Sounders Academy U-17 and U-19 teams are in Oceanside, Calif., this week for the USSDA playoffs. Here’s everything you need to know.
It was a tale of two seasons for the U-19s during the 2018-19 USSDA campaign.
During the fall, the squad had its full complement of Tacoma Defiance players, leading to a consistent training environment. But once the USL Championship season began in earnest, the irregularity disrupted the team’s momentum, though they still managed to qualify for the postseason.
“I think the biggest challenge for the guys is, despite an inconsistent training environment, maintaining their individual standards,” said U-19 Head Coach Mike Morris. “It’s not enough to say you’ve won stuff at younger age groups in the past. You have to be able build off those experiences and hold yourself accountable for the learning process.”
U-19 defender Blake Malone is one to watch at the playoffs | Quinn Width
While last year’s group was defined by their defensive work off the ball, this year’s U-19 team is notable for its pedigree in possession.
“I think our identity was built a lot around our ability to maintain possession in specific ways based off of different triggers from the opponent: how they pressed, whether they sat off, what type of shape they played,” added Morris. “Our identity [in the playoffs] is we have to be tough to play against, we have to be a collective and we have to work hard.”.
Players to watch | Blake Malone (CB, 2001), Leo Burney (CB, 2001), Peter Kingston (CM, 2001), Sam Fowler (GK, 2000).
Schedule | Sounders vs. Player Development Academy (6/17, 1 p.m. PT), Sounders vs. Orlando City SC (6/19, 2:30 p.m. PT), Sounders vs. FC Golden State (6/21, 3:15 p.m. PT).
As the reigning champions of the DA playoffs and the Generation adidas Cup, the U-17s enter the postseason with plenty of accolades under their belt. The results in 2018-19 don’t tell the full story, as over six players from the U-15 squad earned meaningful minutes playing up an age group.
“The boys showed a lot of consistency throughout the season, which is good, and there have been plenty of opportunities for them to develop and grow,” said U-17 Interim Head Coach Ryan Faithfull. “The key component for us will be sticking to our identity, our style of play and taking advantage of really good opportunities to face opponents we normally wouldn’t play, who have varying playing styles.”
The U-17s enter the playoffs looking to defender their 2017-18 title | Quinn Width
Despite their age, the U-17s have already amassed a wealth of experience in international tournaments and knockout competitions.
“We’ve got a very dynamic and versatile squad,” said Faithfull. “They’re still 15- and 16-year-old kids, but they’ve experienced the GA Cup. A lot of the boys went over to Switzerland to compete in the FIFA Youth Cup as well. So, they’re experienced playing against U-19 pros from the likes of Benfica and Boca Juniors. Having that tournament soccer experience could help once we come back together as a group.”
Players to watch | Conrad Lee (GK, 2002) Elias Katsaros (LB, 2002), Ethan Dobbelaere (CM, 2002), Sota Kitahara (CDM, 2003), Chris Hegardt (CM, 2002).
Schedule | Sounders vs. Solar Soccer Club (6/18, 4 p.m. PT), Sounders vs. Montreal Impact (6/20, 1 p.m. PT), Sounders vs. Bethesda SC (6/22, 2:30 p.m. PT).