Sounders Academy teams compete in 2014 Winter Showcase

Victor Mansaray Edited 1105

The Sounders FC U-16 and U-18 Academy teams competed in the 2014 Winter Showcase running from November 28-December 3 in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, with U.S. Soccer hosting the annual event in conjunction with the Nike International Friendlies. The Winter Showcase gives Academy teams the opportunity to compete in three matches against out of conference opponents with points contributing to their overall U.S. Soccer Development Academy League rankings. Showcase events also offer U.S. Soccer scouts the opportunity to identify and evaluate the best players in the Academy system.

Both the Sounders FC U-18 and U-16 squads came out of their groups with two wins and a loss. The U-18s started their weekend with a 1-0 victory over fellow MLS Academy side Philadelphia Union. Marcus Machado’s free kick in the 72nd minute set-up Victor Mansaray to head home the game-winning goal. Mansaray became the youngest player in Sounders FC history to sign a Homegrown Player contract on November 5 and will be officially added to the club’s roster on January 1, 2015.

The U-18s then fell 2-0 to FC Dallas after conceding two first half goals on the second day of the event. The squad regrouped and bounced back on the final day, earning a 3-2 come-from-behind win against Kendall SC. After conceding a goal in the 24th minute, Mansaray tied it up after tireless work from Ryan Schaefer in the final minute leading into halftime. The squad built upon this momentum early in the second half as Mansaray tallied a go ahead goal in the 54th minute with the assist coming from one of the league’s leading scorers, Sean Bowman. Mansaray returned the favor and set up Bowman three minutes later for the game-winner, his 12th of the season.

The U-16s also started match play against the Philadelphia Union, but Sounders FC was unable to recover from a two-goal deficit in the first half and fell 2-0. The squad put that match behind them and rallied for a 3-1 victory over MLS-rival D.C. United. Johnny Reynolds opened the scoring line with a clean finish after fine work from Cameron Martin, before United started the second half strong with a quick goal in the 47th minute. Sounders FC immediately answered with a strike from Alex Bradbury after a well-timed through ball from Quentin Chi just a minute later, then secured the two-goal lead in the 83rd when Joe Hafferty’s ball in behind found Sam Rogers for a composed finish.

The U-16s ended the event on a high note with a well-deserved 3-1 win over Texans SC-Houston. Bradbury opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a laser far-post finish stemming from a Rogers through ball. The Sounders and Texans entered the half tied at one goal apiece, but Reynolds quickly supplied the go-ahead goal off a clinical free kick just outside the box minutes after halftime. Seattle secured the lead in the 76th when Oscar Zepeda made a hard run down the flank and served a perfect back-post delivery for Habib Barry to head home the game clincher.

“It was a good few days for our players. The competition was good and the overall conditions were excellent,” stated Sounders FC Academy Technical Director Marc Nicholls. “Our players had to deal with a long trip and this kind of experience will stand them in good stead as they prepare to be future professionals. It was particularly pleasing to see three of our U-14s make an impact with the U-16 group.”

Thanks to the overlap with the Nike International Friendlies, the players were able to watch the U-17 U.S. National Team face the U-17 Brazilian side in the title match.  Though the US fell 4-1, it was a great opportunity for Academy players to witness the best international players in their age group compete in a highly competitive international match. 



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