Seattle Sounders FC will set a league record by starting five teenagers (players 19 and under) in tonight's road match against Austin FC — adding to their tradition of playing the youth. The teens to start tonight include Josh Atencio (19), Ethan Dobbelaere (18), Danny Leyva (18), Reed Baker-Whiting (16) and Obed Vargas (15).
Sounders FC midfielder Obed Vargas contributes the most youth to this lineup, becoming the third-youngest player in league history to either start or play in a match (15 years and 351 days).
Seattle’s previous club record of teenagers to start a match came in their May 12 win against San Jose with both Leyva and Ethan Dobbelaere getting the nod from Head Coach Brian Schmetzer.
Due to injuries, international duty, and suspension, Sounders FC qualified for Extreme Hardship and announced this afternoon the short-term loan signings of Tacoma Defiance players Samuel Adeniran, Juan Alvarez, Obed Vargas and Alex Villanueva.
“Wade Webber (Tacoma Defiance Head Coach) plays the same system that we do so the players understand what the general tactics are,” said Brian Schmetzer. “You just want them to use their youthful exuberance and their excitement to be involved in a professional game. Some of the adrenaline turns into energy. Yeah, they’re going to be nervous, of course they are, if they weren’t nervous then I’d be concerned.”
Before tonight’s matchup, no other team in league history has done this, with only Dallas (2019) and New York Red Bulls (twice in 2005) coming the closest by starting four teenagers.
This youthful starting lineup will be bolstered on the bench with more youth through 19-year-old Alex Villanueva and 16-year-old Juan Alvarez.