Seattle Sounders FC 2 announced the signing of Academy left winger Marlon Vargas on Friday. Vargas, 17, has spent the last two years in the Rave Green youth system, signing with Seattle from Central California Aztecs, a youth affiliate club.
Vargas becomes the seventh player to sign with S2 directly from the Sounders Academy, following in the footsteps of teammates Azriel Gonzalez (16), Ray Serrano (15 at time of signing) and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (16).
“I’m really happy that I signed my first professional contract,” said Vargas. “I’ve worked hard to get here, but I’ve got to keep working harder and harder. My goal is to make it to the First Team.”
A dynamic, creative midfielder with the ideal blend of flair and end product, Vargas’ ascent from promising prospect to full-fledged professional has been rather rapid. After initially plying his trade with the U-16s, which helped him acclimate to a new team and a new city, the California native moved up full time to the U-17s, helping them reach the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 USSDA playoffs.
"Marlon has earned his contract with S2,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “He can do things to change a game and he's a wonderful player to watch, a really exciting talent. He still has a lot to learn and develop, like all young players, but he has potential to be a difference maker."
While Vargas showed flashes of his true potential throughout his first season, it was in his second campaign when he began turning plenty of heads throughout the club. After impressing Head Coach Brian Schmetzer in several training stints with the First Team, the young winger was invited to participate in the 2018 preseason.
“When I got the call-up to train with the First Team for the first time, I was just shocked,” recalled Vargas. “I didn’t expect it to be that soon. I couldn’t believe I was training with [Nicolás] Lodeiro, Ozzie [Alonso] and [Clint] Dempsey. They’re really welcoming, and the practices are so intense, which is what you want in every training session.”
Across all competitions this season, the exciting left winger, who can also line up as a No. 10, has tallied a staggering 19 goals and 26 assists from 35 appearances with the U-17s.
More recently, Vargas enjoyed a breakout performance at Generation adidas Cup, a youth tournament that pits top MLS Academies against the best youth sides in the world. The young Sounders took the event by storm, winning the Premier Division final 2-1 over New York Red Bulls, with Vargas supplying the equalizing goal. He was named as one of the top performers at the event by MLSsoccer.com and TopDrawerSoccer.com, finishing the week with four goals and five assists from five matches.
Vargas vs. the New York Red Bulls in the Generation adidas Cup Final
Although Vargas is following the pathway first carved out by the likes of Sam Rogers, Shandon Hopeau and Gonzalez, the club feels his unique, innovative playing style will help him make an immediate impact with the USL side.
"Marlon is a big talent, and this year has been a breakout year for him,” said Assistant Coach Wade Webber. “The thing I get so excited about when I watch Marlon is when he has the ball at his feet and he's driving at someone. He's not the fastest player, but the way that he uses his body weight, changes the angle of the ball, he has almost a perfect sense of timing in terms of when to release a pass, when to bait you into a challenge and go by you.
“He projects an intention to the defender that’s actually nowhere close to what he plans on doing,” continued Webber. “He’s a goalscorer, but he’s also a creator. He gets tons of assists. That versatility is really important for any young player who is going to make the jump to professional soccer.”
As influential as Vargas has been on the pitch, his work in the classroom and intense drive to become a well-rounded person has impressed plenty of people throughout the club.
“Marlon is one of the most intriguing thinkers I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” said Sounders Academy Head of Education and Welfare Diane Carney, who is also Vargas’ host parent. “He’s brilliant in unexpected moments, in unexpected ways. Marlon has an uncanny understanding of 3-D space, a perfect sense of direction and sometimes a nearly photographic memory. Be prepared to be thrilled as we watch him further develop as a player.”
As the fourth player from the 2001 and ’02 Academy class to sign a professional contract, Vargas cites the professional pathway at the club as a crucial factor in accelerating the development of the club’s top prospects.
“I think it’s huge [playing in USL] because player development is getting better,” he said. “I feel like what S2 is doing now, bringing in Academy players, is really helping us develop on and off the field, and getting used to the professional environment.”
If Vargas can replicate the flair, creativity and incisive attacking play made him such a promising prospect in the Academy with S2, then his future is incredibly bright.