2018 GA Cup

The Seattle Sounders Academy U-17s have advanced to the semifinals of the Generation adidas Cup Premier Division after topping Group A with eight points. Needing a win on the final matchday after easily dismantling Japanese side Matsumoto Yamada and the New England Revolution in the first two rounds, the young Sounders booked their place in the semis by beating Columbus Crew SC 3-2 on penalties after a scoreless draw. Goalkeeper Conrad Lee, a 15-year-old trialist from New Hampshire, entered the match late in the second half when Bobby Harraka suffered an injury. Lee pulled off a couple of saves to send the team to penalties and then helped the team advance to the semis with a couple more in the shootout.

Monterrey and the Montreal Impact advanced the semifinals as well. Group C is yet to be decided, with San Jose, New York Red Bull and Tigres UANL all in contention for the top spot entering the final matchday.

Here are three takeaways for the Sounders U-17s from the group stage.

S2’s Azriel Gonzalez scores his first goal against Matsumoto.

Poetic Justice

In last year’s edition, the young Sounders brought the second-youngest squad to the Premier Division in March. Though they easily won their first two matches, showcasing their attacking quality and defensive steel, they finished second in the group after losing to New York City FC on penalties. NYCFC, who were the youngest team in the competition, went on to win the Premier Division.

One year later, the young Sounders faced the exact same task: Win on penalties and advance to the semis. Since they brought such a young squad last season, many of their key contributors in the shootout win over Columbus had already been in that situation. Two in particular, Peter Kingston and Marlon Vargas, dispatched their spot kicks with authority.

Gonzalez bags his second with a beautiful shot from distance.

Key Contributors Seal Group A

Speaking of a returning core, the trio of center back Leo Burney, midfielder Josh Atencio and winger Vargas were the standout performers for the Rave Green throughout the group stage. Burney and center back partner Blake Malone restricted opponents to just two goals in the three games, while Atencio balanced shielding the back four with setting the tempo for the team going forward. Vargas, who came on as a substitute against Columbus due to sickness, supplied his dynamism in the final third, contributing one goal and two assists from two starts.

S2’s Ray Serrano volleys home from six yards out.

Developmental Value

Prior to the start of the Premier Division, Head Coach Chris Little mentioned that while they want to win the tournament, they wanted to do so by imposing themselves on other teams and staying true to their soccer identity. Throughout all three games, the young Sounders maintained their brand of high-tempo attacking soccer, pressing opponents all over the pitch and stringing together intricate passing combinations in the final third.

The competition for starting spots speaks to the depth of talent in this squad, as Danny Leyva and Sota Kitahara, who both came off the bench against Columbus, are established regulars with the U.S. U-16s. The young Sounders will need that depth and overall quality as they face the likes of Monterrey or Tigres in the knockout rounds.

March 23

  • Sounders FC 6 vs. Matsumoto Yamada 1

March 25

  • Sounders FC 3 vs. New England Revolution 1

March 26

  • Sounders FC 0 vs. Columbus Crew SC 0 (3-2 win on PKs)


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